Romance Read: Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 1 by Mizuho Kusanagi

*This Review is Spoiler Free* 

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This story, wow, I was genuinely surprised at the twists and turns within the first couple chapters. I did NOT at all expect for this story to turn out the way it did. This was intended to be a novel review but… I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately, and haven’t been able to finish/pick up most of the books I’ve set out to read. So have totally been coping out of doing intended book reviews with tons of manga and graphic novels! It still counts right? Yes? Well let’s pretend it does even if it doesn’t! Hahaha! Anywho, as someone who isn’t a big fan of shojo (manga for young/teen girls) in general I never really thought I would not only pick-up the manga Yona of the Dawn, but begin collecting it. Despite my continuing overall apprehension towards most romance this is now one of my very few shojo favorites. 

Synopsis: Yona of the Dawn is a fantasy set in a kingdom called Kohka. The story centers around main character princess Yona as she prepares for her 16th birthday. Yona, the only child of widow King IL, is a pampered young lady but things quickly change. Very quickly. As most know nothing good happens for royalty on their coming-of-age birthdays. 

Rating: 8.5/10 Unicorn Horns.

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To be honest, I was considering dropping this after the first couple pages as even though I was enjoying the comedy. The whole love struck pampered princess scene really wasn’t doing anything for me. But then came the plot twist and suddenly I’m 4 volumes deep and searching up the next release date. I loved this story and the unexpected action. The fight scenes were really well done and nothing I’ve ever come across in shojo (the art in general was really good). And the characters! I loved even the antagonist as a character, the character dynamics, and the often hilarious bantering and interactions. So far the major players are complex, and each had a side to him/her that was mysterious and at times unpredictable. For some what most caught my attention was the revelation of past or hidden thoughts/motives, for others it was major character development, and for the main protagonist Yona it was both in leaps and bounds.

As the 1st volume mainly dishes out the events that lead to her transformation so you won’t get to see the real results till the second volume. But I can promise watching this fiery spirited princess transition into a determined warrior with open eyes to the reality of her kingdom is every bit worth it. I can’t get too into it without spoiling something, but I loved the deeper fantasy aspect that arises once the mystery behind Yona’s red hair is revealed, as well as love how this questions the idea of right and wrong (Vol. 2-3). Safe to say I’ll be checking out the 24 episode anime adaptation available on both Crunchyroll and Funimation.

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As for the romance…well, there are some tantalizing scenes here and there, but overall I’d say this actually doesn’t have a strong enough overall romantic theme to actually be considered a straight up “Romance Read“. It plays an important role, but Yona’s adventures with new/existing comrades soon take center stage most of the time. Yet…once again- cop out. Since I’m technically only reviewing the first volume, which has a stronger focus on the romantic elements, I’m going to conveniently pretend it still counts! Yay me! 

Shaman King, Vol.1: A Shaman in Tokyo by Hiroyuki Takei

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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After finishing an epic manga reading binge I was in desperate need for another series to read. While I was at the library where I lived I was struggling to find a series where all the volumes were available to be borrowed and that I would not have to put on hold and have to wait to be able to read. The only series that fit the bill, that was NOT shojo, was the Shaman King series which is a shonen series. I had not really heard much about the manga series prior to borrowing it from the library, but I decided to take a leap of faith because why not…some of my greatest finds have been impulse purchases/borrowing. Also, the covers and spines for each volume are incredibly gorgeous and colorful…which doesn’t hurt the selection process lol!

The series is about a young Shaman named Yoh, who in the first volume is starting at a new school in Tokyo. The first volume mainly focuses on Manta, a fellow student at Shinra Private Junior High. While Manta is taking a shortcut through a local cemetery he happens across Yoh who is wearing his trademark headphones and just chilling in the graveyard. Through a series of events which involve ghosts, supernatural occurrences, and encounters with a “thug” named Ryu, Manta and Yoh become friends. In the series there are various types of Shamans, Yoh is one that is able to connect with ghosts and allow them to possess his body so that they can lend him their powers. In this volume we are introduced to Admidamaru, a 600-year-old samurai ghost and to a fellow Shaman named Ren who has a particularly sinister interest in Yoh and Admidamaru.

I have continued on with the series and can say that this volume is quite slow in comparison to the remainder of the series. So, if you ever do pick this series up don’t quit until you’ve read up to volume 3. That will give you a much better feel for the series as a whole. As I previously mentioned the first volume has a heavy focus on the character Manta, this only lasts for this volume. As you get to the conclusion of this volume the focus shifts to Yoh and continues that way for the rest of the series (…well for as far as I have read a.k.a Vol. 9). The story itself serves as a backdrop to the rest of the series and helps to slowly immerse you into the world of the series. You are able to get a pretty good understanding of how Yoh’s abilities work and  how they are able to be beneficial to both him and the ghosts that he encounters. The reader gets an introduction to the different types of “relationships” that can form between ghosts, shamans, and non-shaman humans (that sounds kinda pervy, but I swear it isn’t lol). The illustrations in the series are not the best I have ever seen, but it’s absolutely far from the worst. The art style is somewhat minimalistic yet is still detailed. The styling of the illustrations makes it incredibly easy to decipher what is happening in faster paced segments of the story, namely battle/fight scenes.

As a whole package (story and art) I enjoyed volume 1 of Shaman King. It serves as a good set-up to the series and gives the reader enough detail to not feel left behind and unprepared for the following volumes. Overall the story was not amazingly entertaining, but that did not bother me at all because the story quickly picks up towards the end and you can easily identify the main focus/purpose of this initial volume in the series. I give Shaman King, Vol. 1: A Shaman in Tokyo a rating of 7 out of 10 Unicorn Horns. Happy Reading! 

NEW RELEASE: Anonymous Noise, Vol. 1 by Ryoko Fukuyama

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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Two words: The. Cover. Once again in my complete predictability I picked up a book, without even reading the premise, for no other reason than that I liked the cover. In my defense before buying it and taking it home using one of my now many gift cards, I did notice that there was a guitar on the front. I like guitars. See! I call that progress. Ahem, now to talk about this new shojo-shoujo?- (see, even more progress, now I’ve reviewed two of them. Ha!).

Thankfully my not-so-random manga pick worked out, as this story is was better than I expected considering my usual aversion to shojo. I can’t get too into things, but this is primarily about a high school girl named Nino, two male childhood friends named Momo and Yuzu, lost connections, romance, and the music they share. MUSIC THEME!! Happiness all around! After seeing the anime for NANAYour Lie in April and recently starting up Nodame Cantabile I can say I now have a realllyy strong interest in music themed things. The story begins with 5-year-old best friends Nino and Momo singing through the noise of his parents arguing. The manga shows a few humorous scenes of the inseparable pair together when one day, without a word, Momo moves leaving Nino confused and alone with the pain of the sudden separation. It’s this that leads her to meeting another young boy named Yuzu.

The scenes of how they meet as kids deeply ties into their relationship with music, and I was impressed with how Fukuyama conveyed their thoughts and feelings. I have a few early concerns with Nino’s character, but there is something about the way Fukuyama tells this story that has drawn me in. I liked the premise, the characters, and the art- namely the way panels were arranged for some scenes. I can’t say I got to know the main characters too well yet, but will say I genuinely like them so far, especially Yuzu and the humour he shares with Nino. There is quite a lot left unanswered by the end of the volume so I’m looking out for the next release!

Overall 6.5/10 Unicorn horns!

I Hate Fairyland Vol. 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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LMAOOO!!! I’m still slightly new to the American comic book world -as much as I love the stories I’m admittedly a little afraid of all those Marvel volumes- but had started picking up and collecting some Image Comics to start with. I don’t have much to compare it to, but as a fan of comedic TV shows and movies I have to say that this is a good pick that caters to my type of comedy- sarcastic, a bit witty, crude and unapologetic. I’d recommend this to any fan of satirical comedy shows like Futurama, Family Guy, or Robot Chicken. I look forward to the 2nd installment and give it 8/10 Unicorn Horns

The story, pretty self-explanatory considering the title, cover page, and opening quote:

It was a nightmare. Nothing but the green of her hair…and the blood of my people.

– Thaddeus J. Star, R.I.P.

Is basically a parody of fairy tales in general, so on occasion you’ll recognize themes/elements from scenes of well known fairy tales. All within the first 6 or so pages you get a bit of an Alice in Wonderland parody where a young 6 year old named Gert is whisked away, yelling and screaming, into a fairlyland. After a brutal and very bloody landing, the Queen of Fairyland sends her on an epic journey with an optimistic looking fly named Larry as a guide to find the magic key that will open a door to her way back home. On the 7th page, 27 years later, we have a now alcoholic looking Larry and an angry and psychotic looking Gert floating on a magic boat, flipping off and threatening the moon (in creative curse words I have to say) for insulting her. After she successfully…and very, umm, violently expresses her feeling for the moon the story goes on to follow the hilarious and always eventually violent adventures of the certifiable 47 year old woman trapped in a 6-year-old girl’s body.

I enjoyed this comic quite a bit. Gert is an incredibly insane and violent character that was a lot of fun to watch, and Larry, the straight man and unwilling side-kick, well…there’s not much to say about him to be honest, but his stoic ways do compliment Gert’s expressive homicidal ways quite nicely. The story line is nicely creative in some places and predictable in other ways, Gert will always do something crazy/stupid, but even then I was often surprised with the “how”. You may be able to tell she’s about to demolish a town, but really anything goes when it comes to how she’ll do it. I enjoyed meeting the host of other random and often hilariously creative characters and creatures, but more than that I loved the art. I’m a big fan of the style and have to say I really loved all the vivid colours used as well. 

Goodnight Punpun, Vol. 1 by Inio Asano

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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10/10 Unicorn Horns. Goodnight Punpun, also known as Oyasami Punpun, is something I’d only gotten interested in because of the hilariously odd sounding title. Within the first few pages I figured I’d drop this very odd and nonsensical series…after one more page. But one more page became one more chapter, and one more chapter eventually become one more volume. Somehow I quickly devoured the first 2-in-1 omnibus volume, and was reaching for the second. I’m not even completely sure what makes me give it such a high rating.

Synopsis: Goodnight Punpun is something that comes off as an odd comedy at first, but eventually snowballs into a rather heavy read despite all the comic relief. It’s 3rd person narration begins with the main character Punpun in middle school. On the surface Punpun seems like a typical, albeit sensitive, kid, but is tying to cope with domestic abuse and all the complicated emotions that go with it. As the story goes on it occasionally branches off into the stories of side characters as they deal with past trauma, financial difficulties, insecurities, life choices, romance and the ups and (primarily) downs of life, but remains focused on Punpun up through high school (this is an on-going series with the 3rd volume ending with Punpun at 18 years old).  

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Goodnight Punpun is really strange. The host of strange things from imaginary figures to wacky facial expression and randomly blurted out comments is at times confusing, especially since I can’t always tell whether I’m meant to take it seriously. Punpun is annoying at times. His dysfunctional family infuriates me. There are triggers pretty much everywhere for readers who have experienced abuse/depression of any kind. Yet, I kept reading. Despite my many criticisms in the beginning, I am amazed with how this story was constructed.

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This was a downright grim and pretty messed up coming of age story, but is also about some of the most negative and conflicting aspects of being human. The emotional, social, and even psychological struggles and questioning these characters experience are things I’d say most people can relate to. It delves into all this on a psychological level expressed not just through the character’s conflicting actions, thoughts, and dialogue, but also through a lot of symbolism, metaphor and imagery. The abundant comedy in this manga- exaggerated drawings, ridiculous situations, nonsensical images and dialogue- contrasts with heavy emotional scenes and the troubling thoughts of the main character.

People are free…That’s why they insist on teaching you cooperation and ethics when you’re young. But the world is set up to force people to fight, cheat and steal as a default. Trying to live with that contradiction is torture…

I’d recommend this to any adult or older teen regardless of genre preferences, but warn off those who would be bothered by sexually explicit content as this story doesn’t shy away from it. This is a complete 13 volume series, but the English publication is currently on-going (the last volume is set to be released September 19th, 2017).

Toradora! Vol. 1 by Yuyuko Takemiya (Story) & Zekkyo (Art)

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8/10 unicorn horns so far!

I initially meant to write a Holiday themed book review but have been really strapped for time this past month- things have been pretty hectic and work and busy at home- so that didn’t work out. I figured I’d just go with something new, something outside of my usual reading preferences, after seeing that I have actually never written a manga review on any shojo (manga intended for young girls). Though I’ve come across a few great series in the shojo genre, I have to admit it’s been more miss than hit so I unfortunately tend to avoid it altogether. Only after reading and pre-posting this review did I notice my mistake. Turns out this is yet another shonen (intended for young males) manga. But since I truly enjoyed this series so much I decided to do write a review anyway (I swear I’ll write at least 1 shojo review next month). 

Toradora!, a fairly popular romantic comedy based on a light novel series, is narrated by a 17-year-old high school student named Takasu Ryuuji who struggles to fit in and make friends with his classmates due to a series of hilarious, over dramatic misunderstandings. These misunderstandings actually have nothing to do with his personality or even his actions, but simply because of his natural expression. No matter what he does, he almost always appears to be glaring at others. This doesn’t make it easy for him to get to know others, especially his long-term crush Kushieda, but the new school year gives him a better opportunity when his crush ends up in the same class as him. Well, should have been, except for an unexpected encounter with fellow classmate Aiska Taiga (a.k.a. The Palmtop Tiger). As the name suggests, Aiska is a tiny girl with a wild temperament and terrible personality- rude, demanding, ungrateful, very talented at all things klutz, and the best friend of Kushieda. After things take an unexpected and hilariously embarrassing turn, Ryuuji uncovers Aisaka’s secret: she’s in love with his (only) best friend. And so, these two end up working together in an attempt to confess their feelings to their respective love interests. 

This, as you can probably tell, is all very generic: boy meets girl + host of hilarious events= love. But that’s not quite the case. I considered dropping this series after seeing that this would likely take an incredibly predictable path, and also because I wasn’t too interested in sticking it out when I didn’t really like the other main character Aiska; but since I’d already taken the first two volumes from the library, was going to to a review on it (my main reason) and was really loving the humour I figured I’d at least finish them both. Now? I’m definitely collecting it. Not so much because I love over done story-lines, but because, incredibly, the main characters’ personalities and uniqueness are turning this story into an amazing experience so far. I expected both to follow common archetype but they surprised me. Ryuuji, generally the clueless, slow to action, and/or initially inconsiderate male lead, was considerate, kind to a fault, and emotionally mature (for protagonists of this genre that is). Aisaka, though at first got on my nerves despite all the jokes and making me laugh, really does have a bad personality but quickly comes to own up to her faults and later expresses complex, all too human emotions. Safe to say she grew on me (especially in the 2nd volume). The two love interests, Kushieda and Kitamura, haven’t been given much time to shine, but so far (by the 2nd volume at least) have made some insightful choices and judgement calls uncommon for side characters with their personality. I’m looking forward to getting to know them more. 

As of now there are 7 volumes available in English with the 8th volume scheduled to be released late November 2017 (the wait is going to kill me!). I can’t tell how faithful the novel adaptation is since it’s not available in English, but since the story is credited to the same author as the novels I’ll assume it doesn’t branch too far from the original work. There is also a 25 episode anime adaptation of the series available on Crunchyroll that, at least so far, follows the manga incredibly well. I’d recommend this series to any fan of comedy or romance. 

On a separate note:

Happy Holidays everyone!! 😁🎉🎁

Tokyo ESP Vol. 1 (Omnibus) by Hajime Segawa

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Someone once said: There are only two ways you can live your life. Either you live your life as if things like miracles don’t ever happen, or you live your life as if perhaps everything is a miracle.

This has turned out to be one of my most anticipated reads this year! Say nothing for all the gorgeous covers, this has been a very interesting story. The anime adaptation by the same name is what first thing to get me onto the manga (which is complete in it’s country of origin Japan, but just started printing 2-1 omnibus editions in English late last year), but as the anime has some odd pacing issues the manga is definitely the better pick. 

Not giving anything beyond the 1st chapter away, Tokyo ESP kicks off with main character Rinka Urashiba, a poverty stricken young teenager, as she wakes up one morning to call her father in a panic- suddenly falling through the floor and household furniture tends to do that to a person. A flashback to the previous day reveals Rinka’s encounter, along with a fellow high school student, with a very strange and mysterious event: A small African Penguin flying through the sky following a school of small, glowing, flying fish, one of which flies right into her. While she puzzles this out with aforementioned school mate, her protective father (a retired police officer and single parent since his wife took off) attempts to run home after receiving Rinka’s panicked message. A  very difficult task when you have every car in the area flying toward you like your a magnet. After witnessing this event and Rinka’s role in putting a stop to it while protecting dozens of nearby citizens, Kyotaro Azuma (the fellow high school student) lends a helping hand in their get away…by using teleportation to whisk them away.

With the mystery and issues that arise from dozens of magical fish flying through the city and gifting ordinary citizens with an array of superhuman abilities, it follows that groups of justice seeking masked vigilantes and super-powered villains would arise. This is a story that caters to superhero lovers as it centers around Rinka, Azuma, and their new friends as she incorporates her father’s morals and fights back against the raising tide of public chaos, and struggles with her own weaknesses in order to protect everything she holds dear. As you could probably already tell this story is a classic that has been told plenty of times, though as the story progresses (and boy does it ever), characters overcome and challenge themselves, mysteries arise and questions are answered, and both antagonist’s and protagonist’s pasts’ are revealed it gathers plenty of originality to keep readers coming back for more (I’ve read up to the fifth 2-in-1 omnibus volume). As for the art…I’m a bit conflicted on it. It’s different from what I’m use to and at times it’s very well done (those front and centered coloured pages in every bind-up are GORGEOUS!!), but it can sometimes drop in quality and become a little disjointed (never to the point the story-line can’t be followed). 

This was a really great find! I’d recommend it to anyone who loves stories with supernatural elements, superheroes, an undercurrent of romance, complex villains, kick-ass heroines (Rinka can hold her own against the best), and themes involving crime and justice.

8/10 Unicorn Horns!

I’m totally fangirling here but just look at all those beautiful covers!!

*Omnibus volumes 1-7 are currently all available in English. The last omnibus (volume 8) is scheduled to be released April 25th, 2017*