Thursday, April 16, 2009

Red River: Vol. 13

by Chie Shinohara

Yuri, a teen of the twenty-first century, has been transported to ancient Anatolia as part of a scheme by the evil Nakia, Queen of the Hitties. Only the intervention of Nakia's stepson, Prince Kail, saved Yuri from the Queen bloodthirsty intentions. As an unintended consequence, the people of the kingdoms of Anatolia are now convinced that Yuri is the incarnation of the great war-goddess Ishtar.

Yuri finds a way for her and the Hittite army to take the castle city of Beykal without bloodshed. In the course of this conquest she also gains a powerful new ally. Nakia, however, plans to thwart Yuri's eventual return to Japan by building a temple over the spring from which Yuri sprang! Responding to this new threat to his beloved Ishtar, Kail makes a decision that not only brings a fresh challenge from Egypt but may cost him his life!

Things really come to a head in this volume. Yuri wants to go home, of course, so we get never ending scenes of angst, and her saying how much she wants to go home, but she loves Kail, but she wants to go home, but she still loves Kail, and -- oh, she misses her family so much, but she'll never forget Kail! Bleh, spare me. I keep complaining that she won't decide, but I guess she has -- she chooses to go home. It's really the childish choice. When people grow up, it's natural to grow apart from your family, and create your own life, and your own family. But whatever. I can't wait for her to get back to Japan and have a boring, boring life. School, work, marrying a man you don't love. Ha. What's also utterly ridiculous is Hadi, her servant, makes a comment about how Yuri has to decide, not her friends, and not Nakia. Keep that comment in mind.

So now Nakia has a new dastardly plan to keep Yuri there. She's going to destroy the spring where Yuri first arrived in Hattusa. Although, I fail to see why if Kail sends Yuri back, why Nakia can't just re-summon her. But I think too much. Seriously, if there's really a reason why it must be Yuri who is the sacrifice, why doesn't the author tell us? As it is, it just seems like a case of not following the Evil Overlord's Handbook.

I should mention that Yuri actually was clever in her capacity to conquer the towns of Arzawa, by posing with the sisters and Ilbani as traveling musicians, with her as the dancer. I don't know how well this would work as a tactic, but it is pretty ingenious. Too bad she's not this clever all the time.

Also, it looks like Ramses may have killed Kail. Or, if you know history, you know he doesn't. So much for that suspense. Yuri doesn't know, but through that magic of stories, she can tell because the headband he gave her broke. I wonder if she'll still choose to go home or will she rush to his side?

Final thought: I'll keep criticizing.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Red River: Vol. 12

by Chie Shinohara

Yuri, a teen of the 21st century, has been transported to ancient Anatolia as part of a scheme by the evil Nakia, Queen of the Hitties. Only the intervention of Nakia's stepson, Prince Kail, saved Yuri from the Queen bloodthirsty intentions. As an unintended consequence, the people of the kingdoms of Anatolia are now convinced that Yuri is the incarnation of the great war-goddess Ishtar.

Kail's forces are triumphant in Alinna. Back in Hattusa, the victorious prince is declared the new king of the Hittites, even as Yuri uncovers a web of subterfuge woven by Queen Nakia that threatens the entire Hittite empire. Making matters worse, the neighboring nations of Arzawa and Ugarit have launched a two-pronged attack that compels the Hittites to field two countering forces -- one led by Kail, the other by Yuri!

So it seems like any implication of Nakia in the last king's murder that was introduced in the last volume has been completely forgotten. Surprise, surprise. She's also apparently behind spying in the palace, and probably the two countries that are attacking at the same time. Something really needs to be done about her, but it won't be. As for her lackey, Urhi, they'd almost captured him, but he committed suicide by diving into a fast moving river. Except, that he didn't die, as we find out later. Yeah, right.

Most importantly, Kail is now the king. I wasn't surprised, though, history played out that way, so he had to become king. Be careful reading history books, though, you might get spoiled.

They still talk about Yuri going back to Japan. I am so sick of hearing about it. Every time I see it, it's like a knife being stabbed into my stomach, because it's so annoying and fake. Why can't they be together? How would this have changed the story?

Finally, I have to mention the reason this volume is the first to be rated with "explicit content." When I first read this book, I thought, "Finally!" I won't go into detail, but it's kinda weird, sad, and frustrating at the same time. I honestly cannot understand Yuri's reaction. I mean, I don't condone Kail's actions, but I felt like I empathized with him more. It must get frustrating to be rejected all the time. And I don't know about anyone else, but I was certainly not so frigid when I was 17. I guess it goes back to the classic "women have no sex drive" cliche. This series teases way too much.

Final thought: I dread the upcoming books.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Red River: Vol. 11

by Chie Shinohara

Yuri, a teen of the twenty-first century, has been transported to ancient Anatolia as part of a scheme by the evil Nakia, Queen of the Hitties. Only the intervention of Nakia's stepson, Prince Kail, saved Yuri from the Queen bloodthirsty intentions. As an unintended consequence, the people of the kingdoms of Anatolia are now convinced that Yuri is the incarnation of the great war-goddess Ishtar.

But even a goddess has no immunity from persecution when she's falsely accused of the murder of the Hittite king. Forced to flee to Alinna, Yuri must deal with treachery, abduction by the Egyptian military commander Ramses, and someone's tragic self-sacrifice. And in the midst of all this turmoil, Yuri's potent feelings for Prince Kail, ever fraught with uncertainty, are shaken to their very foundations!

This was actually a very good, very sad volume. Yuri runs away, in an attempt to escape Nakia's forces surrounding Alinna, and stupidly gets kidnapped by Ramses. This distracts Kail, who now runs after Yuri to rescue her. While all this distraction is going on, Ursula, the false-Ishtar-turned-maid, decides that she believes in the dream of a peaceful empire enough to sacrifice her own life for it. When she confesses, she also implicates Nakia, but I guess we'll see if anything comes of that. When she was executed, even I admit that I felt sad.

But also, Yuri is kidnapped. Again. And almost raped. Again. And she needs to be rescued. By Kail. Again. This is getting a bit predictable and tiresome. The kidnapping thing is stupid enough, but it'd be nice if she could rescue herself for once. I think it was set up this way so that Ursula could turn herself in without Kail or Yuri knowing, and most likely, stopping her. But what a ridiculous way to distract the characters. Couldn't the author have thought of something other than the kidnapping trope?

Also, Nakia sacrificed Urhi to save herself, but this volume ends on that cliffhanger, so we'll have to wait and see what becomes of that. I suspect it's not that easy, though.

Final thought: I'll rip apart some more.

Friday, March 27, 2009

MeruPuri: Vol. 4

by Matsuri Hino

All high school freshman Airi Hoshina ever wanted was to someday live in a cozy home with a loving husband, and find joy in the little things in life. As a result, she makes it her daily mission to get to school on time because school legend has it that the longer one's non-tardy streak is, the better boyfriend on will find. But just when her daily routine is working like clockwork, an occurrence of fairytale proportions threatens to disrupt her grand plan.

The bizarre adventures of reluctant pair Airi and little prince Aram wind down as their love story comes full circle. As the gap between the kingdom of Astale and the real world narrows, revelations about Airi's and Aram's quirky family members begin to float like pixie dust. Will Airi ever achieve her dream of sharing a cozy home with a loving husband? And what happens to her magic mirror? Discover the wacky twist that's sure to leave you begging for more!

We finally come to the last volume. Since this was a fluff series to begin with, there's not much to expect, but still, it ends up being very good, sweet, and memorable. Most of the loose ends are tied up, and we find out what happens to most of the major characters.

Probably the only problem I have is that the main story arc that was continued from the last volume is concluded in the first chapter, and what makes up the rest of the books is interesting, but just doesn't have the oomph that a conflict would give it. It's like I knew that everything was going to turn out ok, so there wasn't anymore tension in any of the stories. Still, though this sounds bad, the chapters that follow are worth reading.

Overall, I'd have to say that this was a very enjoyable series to read. It was well-written, beautifully drawn, and I absolutely love the costumes that she drew.

Final thought: It's worth owning; definitely a unique series.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Red River: Vol. 10

by Chie Shinohara

Prince Kail, a young warrior and sorcerer and Yuri, a modern-day teen, where thrown together when evil Queen Nakia drew Yuri across time and space into the ancient Hittite Empire. When it is the season of the North Star, Prince Kail has the power to send Yuri home. But the evil queen's plan to murder them both -- and their growing feelings for one another -- keep getting in the way!

Yuri fights to clear her good name by publicly confronting her impersonator. Rather than earning respect, however, she is exiled to a settlement of the sick and dying! Yuri sets out to change people's minds, all the time hoping to be reunited with Kail. However, her heart is broken when she finds out that Kail has been hiding a terrible secret of his own. Does Kail deserve his bad reputation?

Oops on reusing that synopsis, but that's what's on the back of my book. Maybe it's a first edition problem.

Well, the drama continues. The gist of this volume is that the new king, Arnuwanda, is murdered, and Yuri is accused as the murderer. Of course, we know who the real murderer is, Urhi, ordered by Nakia, but the problem with those two is how to prove it. It was explained that the queen was controlling Guzel, the princess who claimed to have Kail's son, as a way to distract Kail from her real plan: to poison the king. Unfortunately for her, Juda came along with Yuri as she tried to warn the king about the poison. Now here, it gets interesting, as Kail figures out that the queen was using Guzel, and he squeezes her, which brings the black water out of her. Of course, you'd think that the council members would see this, and realize that someone was controlling her, but somehow, it doesn't end up that way. They still seem incredulous that magic could be at work, which is utterly ridiculous, because it seems like common knowledge that members of the royal family can use magic. What could have clinched it though, is proving that Juda is being controlled by her, but funnily enough, she won't allow that. Even after it's been established that no one is above the law. This murder mystery is really interesting, and should have exposed Nakia, but the author isn't ready for that, so it doesn't.

Another matter that really bothers me is why, why are the characters always responding to Nakia? Why do they never go on the offensive? It's like those shows we watched as kids, where the bad guys would think up an evil plan, and the good guys would always have to go thwart him/her. I know this series has a lot of anachronistic behavior, but why do we have to include perfectly good here? It's too simplistic. In history, kings and people in the way were always murdered, even by the good guys. Personally, I really like and respect Queen Elizabeth I, who was an excellent queen. But even she had to murder people who were threats to her power. That's how she secured her power base. Every ruler does that.

I suppose my real problem is that I know too much about history, perhaps even more than the author does. Simple ideas of good and evil don't cut it with me anymore, because the world isn't really like that. Even Yuri says several times that she doesn't like sitting around when she could be doing something. Well, she should take the initiative and figure out how to remove Nakia from power, if she's too cowardly to actually kill her. God, and with this talk of "what a great queen she'd make," don't make me sick. It's pathetic that I can out think her, with just a little bit of logic. Anyone with half a brain would make a better queen than her.

Final thought: I'm crazy, let's rip apart some more!

You're probably wondering why I subject myself to this. Well, it's because I already did, over a year ago when I read these books. I used to think they were great, until I started thinking about them, instead of just devouring them. Rereading them has only solidified my opinion: they're good, but not that good. Besides, aren't rants more interesting than reviews of good things?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

RG Veda: Vol. 1

(aka Seiden)
by Clamp

At the dawn of creation, the world was a beautiful and tranquil place. Gods and humans lived peacefully together under the Heavenly Emperor's rule. But Taishakuten, a powerful warlord, rebelled against the King, and voilent, chaotic age began....

Three hundred years later, Kuyou (Yasha), the strongest warrior in the land, hears the prophetic words of a revered stargazer: Six Stars will one day assemble and over throw this bloody reign. Now, the quest begins to find the Six Stars and fulfill the prophecy before the heavens are torn apart!

There's nothing wrong with this manga, but it just didn't grab me. Was it that I had seen these combinations of things before: prophecy, fate, defying heaven, a special being, assembling numbered allies, defeating the ultimate evil, that made me sigh and say "not again"? It's probably unfair, as this manga is somewhat old, so others may have copied it. But there's nothing really special about it either, nothing terribly groundbreaking.

The main bad guy, Taishakuten, is evil for evil's sake, and although nobody likes him, nobody stands up to him, except presumably, the to-be-formed six stars. I find this kind of thing very tiresome. Why does it have to be chosen people? Why can't people just rebel because they don't like the guy? He's too powerful, I know, is the excuse, but for some reason, the chosen people will be strong enough. Why? 'Cause the author said so.

Anyway, this volume involves awakening Ashura, from one of the exterminated tribes, as he is the special one that will gather the other five stars. In reality, not a whole lot happens, just that Ashura proves himself to be the "danger" that he was prophecied to be. He's still only a child, so Yasha, the man who found him, has to take care of him.

There was a really odd shift from the first chapter to the second. The first was incredibly serious, laying out the groundwork for the story, but the second was silly, full of gags, and trying to be cute. I'm honestly not sure what was accomplished in that chapter, but it's typically Japanese, cause we know they can't ever be serious for long. The other chapters didn't reveal much, either, so most of the information is gleaned from the first chapter. Also, the pacing is a little bit odd. I found that it just jumped from one scene to another without even clues that time had passed, or that a scene was changing.

Is there anything redeemable? Sure, it has gorgeous Clamp art, which is a treat to look at, although I wish their men weren't so androgynous, as I don't go for that. It might become an interesting story, but I have a feeling that I know the ending already: they'll gather the other people, and win against the bad guy and peace returns. Yay.

Final thought: If I can't find anything else to read....

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mars: Vol. 6

by Fuyumi Soryo

Kira and Rei are definitely in love -- but no one said love was easy. When a new guy enrolls in their school, he instantly develops a big crush on both Rei and Kira. (Gulp!) To make matters worse, it turns out that this mysterious stranger is actually a face from Rei's violent past. Slowly, Kira begins to discover Rei's darker side, but she's not so sure she likes what she sees. As scandalous stories and shocking secrets are revealed, Kira hopes beyond hope that their love will conquer all.

This new character, Masao, is really irritating. And sick, he's really, really sick. I don't know what it is about him, but he seems to bring out the worst in Rei, which freaks Kira out, and it starts to change how she thinks and feels about him. I kinda wonder to myself if Masao is just really good at manipulating people around him, without them realizing it. I wish that Kira would listen to Rei more, especially about Masao, but understandably, she doesn't, having seen some of his darker side.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot to say about this volume, as it mostly revolves around Masao, the characters getting to know him, and understanding his true, sick nature. It's a really good volume, but pretty messed up, too.

Final thought: I have to read more!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sensual Phrase: Vol. 3

by Mayu Shinjo

There's always a gaggle of pretty young girls hanging out backstage ready to provide "fan support" to Sakuya, the dreamy frontman for hard rockin' Lucifer. Unfortunately, the one girl he most desires doesn't seem to want him.

Or so he thinks.... In reality, Aine is hopelessly in love with the lanky, leather-clad heartthrob. But cruel circumstances have conspired to keep them apart.

Now Sakuya has been cast on a popular TV show with a co-star who just happens to be the first woman he ever slept with! It's no secret she's more than read for another romp with him. Will he be able to resist her sexual advances and hold out for the woman of his dreams...?

I don't really take this series too seriously, because I know it's just erotic fluff. It's not the greatest thing ever, but I don't really hate it, so I keep reading.

In this volume, the whole Ralph Grazer arc gets wrapped up, a little too conveniently, if you ask me. But whatever. Then, we get thrown into another arc, this time with a past lover of Sakuya's, a famous actress, Ayako Sakura. She's still interested in him, of course, she has to be, because we need another conflict. I probably wouldn't care much if Aine had more confidence in herself. She constantly seems to be worried that she's going to lose Sakuya.

One nice thing about this series is that Aine seems to really like sex, as I think most people do, but society tries to get women to downplay that. It's actually refreshing to see a woman enjoying herself and asking for more. It's certainly not something I see very often.

Final thought: I'll read the next book.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Key to the Kingdom: Vol. 5

by Kyoko Shitou

The day has finally arrived -- the day the Dragon Man predicted that Badd would die! A wounded Badd accompanies young Asta back from his mission, in which the Prince learned the true meaning of the "Key" -- or rather "Keys." Now that Asta knows the identities of the sacrifices needed to unlock the Towers, he must race to save both friends and rivals. But a Dragon Man attacks them and Badd finds himself locked in a life and death battle!

A lot happens in this volume, and interestingly enough, most everything is resolved. It's very good, very interesting, and needs to be experienced rather than read about.

I was mostly right about there being two Gaiuses, as there were also two Ceianuses, but apparently they inhabit the same two bodies. Although this makes sense, I fail to understand why Gaius gave the keys to the towers to the other competitors, as this would work against the real dragons. If they alternated personalities, I could buy it, but apparently the dragon tamer and his apprentice can only reclaim their bodies on the day of the solstice. Perhaps there's some information I don't have, because even in this book, they show a Gaius-looking character with Duke Alan when he descends to his tower. Maybe it'll be revealed in the next book.

Obviously, if the story continues, then the dragon tamer's scheme didn't work out. But there's still a lot of unanswered questions, like Badd's life has been saved by eating dragon flesh, but at what cost? The dragon tamer is still alive, so he must be dealt with, but at least his apprentice is dead. Who will succeed to the throne?

Final thought: I have to read the next book!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Apothecarius Argentum: Vol. 1

(aka Yakushi Arujan, Medicine Buddha Argent)
by Tomomi Yamashita

As a boy, Argent was a poison tester for a royal family. He developed an unusual immunity towards toxic substances, and later he became a master chemist with the ability to cure any illness. Returning to the kingdom after a long absence, he is assigned to watch over Princess Primula once again. But any relationship that might develop between the two will have its limits; Argent's very touch has itself become poisonous!

I picked this up on much consideration, having continually seen it in the store, and after reading the synopsis, which sounded interesting, I reminded myself that a lot of things start out with an interesting premise yet go downhill. I just don't know about this series.

It has an interesting premise, though I feel like I've seen it before, a master herbalist who is immune to poisons, yet this also makes him "untouchable." How can he ever have a physical relationship? Does this sound like Rogue from the X-Men to anyone?

Anyway, during the convoluted beginning we find out, the princess, Primula, who acts an awful lot like a spoiled brat, once employed Argent as her food taster, since people were trying to kill her. She sent him away because she wanted him to be his own person, and she wanted to be stronger, or something like that. I don't know to remember, the author only reminds us of it every chapter thereafter. Apparently, the little we get of Argent's past is that he was created (by whom?) to be a "basilisk," which this book defines as a person who is fed small amounts on poison to make them immune to it, but also to create someone who can kill by touch. Anyway, after he left, a few years passed, and he came back because her normal healer was away when she needed him. This sets off events where he reluctantly stays in contact with her, because he's the reticent yet caring type, and they have different adventures that are mildly interesting, but not serious enough for me. I'd hoped at least one chapter would develop Argent more, but there isn't one. Also, this volume has not yet found a plot.

Later in the story, it's clear that the two, Argent and Primula, like each other, but clearly, his problem is going to be ... a problem. I have no idea how the author will resolve this, but I foresee three potential outcomes: one, he'll have to find a cure, thereby destroying his herbalism and poison immunity; two, he'll just live with it, always making sure he never touches her directly, though that could get frustrating; or three, he'll do nothing, but he'll whine about his problem a lot, claim that he can't have a relationship with her because of it, not speak to her about it, and attempt to be distant in an effort to push her away, but she'll get confused and angry, but not confront him, thereby creating a story that will drag on for many books, resulting in profit for the author. I could be wrong about all the outcomes, yes, I admit that, but I've also read enough of anything to tell you that it will likely be number three, which, if so, I will not bother with this series anymore.

I do like the use of herbs in this book, and even the tidbits of information at the back that the author gives us. It's clear that she really cares about this subject, and has researched it a lot. If you know anything about modern medicine and pharmaceuticals, you can see the roots of them in herbalism, which I find fascinating.

Final thought: I'll read more if I can't find anything else to read.