I went on something of a reading binge over the weekend. Of course, having done so, that means I have plenty of things to talk about, as far as series go.
Title: Nodame Cantabile (volumes 3-8)
Text: English (translated)
Story: Ninomiya Tomoko
Art: Ninomiya Tomoko
Publisher: Del Rey (originally Kodansha)
Overall: I'm not sure it's possible for me to talk this series up enough. After reading the first two volumes, I had to put the series on hold for a few days, since volumes three and four didn't ship with 1-2 and 5-8. Needless to say, as soon as I got hold of the volumes missing from the middle, I went through the rest of it in one shot. The comedy and character interactions are still as much on track as they were for the first two volumes. Put simply, Nodame keeps delivering on the promise it displayed at the beginning.
I did have a bizarre realization hit me somewhere around volume seven. As Chiaki was putting together his new orchestra, I noticed that it was almost "shounen action with musical instruments", where most of the characters from early on in the story kept falling into the background as more powerful characters (better musicians, in this case) came up to take their place, as the series moved outside of the school for more of its action. Not that it doesn't make sense that better musicians would be found outside a single school, of course, far from it... just an odd realization that got me thinking of how to classify shounen action as a genre. I mean, beyond fighting, it's been done with organized sports, shogi and go, and even bread-baking. So, why not music, too?
Title: Rurouni Kenshin (volumes 21-28)
Text: English (translated)
Story: Watsuki Nobuhiro
Art: Watsuki Nobuhiro
Publisher: Tokyopop (originally Shounen Jump Japan, Shueisha)
Overall: Compared to the character dramas and comedies and first volumes recently, Kenshin is a relative snap to comment on. This is one of those series that has been around for quite some time, and I can only blame myself for only now getting around to reading the end of it. (Well, volume 28 is actually the end of it, but even I have to go to bed at some point, right?)
A very condensed Kenshin: Himura Kenshin is a wandering swordsman, 10 years after the end of the war that brought about the Meiji restoration in Japan. Unfortunately for him, all sorts of nasty folk are gunning for him because of his part in that revolution, and so, in the traditional shounen action manner, the fights are on.
Anyway, the 21st through 28th volumes comprise the final arc of the Rurouni Kenshin story, the Revenge Arc. It is primarily the story of Yukishiro Enishi, who wants to kill Kenshin because Kenshin killed Enishi's older sister, though almost none of the story is told from Enishi's side. Kenshin's our hero, after all, and there were certain mitigating circumstances surrounding the woman's death (which I'm certainly not going to spoil for you here). The fights are the highlights, naturally, though they actually tend quite a bit to the short side, particularly in the later volumes, where the plot puts the squeeze on page space - a good thing, in my estimation, but fans of fight sequences will probably be a bit put off.
Being by Tokyopop, definitely not my favorite people in the world (quit squatting on the Spiral manga, dang it, it has been two years!), I was pleasantly surprised by the quality. I didn't notice any of the ticky-tack errors they've been prone to in the past, such as text falling off the sides of the page, or overrunning the speech bubbles. I still wish they'd take a little more care in text positioning, but as long as it's readable, that's only worth a minor, passing gripe.
Kind of a postscript, since I saved this as a draft yesterday, and then finished volume 28 last night... The final volume puts a very nice cap on the story, showing what happened to all the characters after the end, as it were.
Title: Loveless (volume 4)
Text: English (translated)
Story: Kouga Yun
Art: Kouga Yun
Publisher: Tokyopop (originally Ichijinsha)
Overall: Now I have to wait three more months to get my next fix of Loveless. Yes, I think it's that good, that I'll wait impatiently for three months, after reading a volume that's only been out a week (and only delivered today). There are definite hints of Spiral here, if you can substitute in spell battles in place of elaborate death traps. Granted that the main character, Ritsuka, isn't anywhere near the genius level of Narumi Ayumu, but that's certainly not stopping Loveless from being a good mystery.
Many people have written many words about Loveless as a shounen-ai story. That's fine, since it is, after all... but that's not what keeps me turning the pages. I'm more curious about... oh... Why did Ritsuka suddenly change two years ago, and why does he retain no memory of such simple things as his likes and dislikes up to that point? Who killed his older brother, and why? Or, for that matter, is his older brother really even dead? There've been some hints that things couldn't turn out as they have been so far in the story if he wasn't still alive somewhere, after all. And who all comprises Septimal Moon (Nanatsu no Tsuki is the original term, "The Seven Moons" is probably a better translation, but "Septimal Moon" does sound pretty cool...), and what is their actual purpose?
Title: Hitsuji-chan in the Dark (ch.1-3)
Media: Manga monthly
Story: Nagakura Hiromaru
Art: Nagakura Hiromaru
Publisher: Dragon Age Magazine (Fujimi Shobo, Kadokawa Shoten)
Overall: The story of a witch hunter and the witch who falls in love with him because she likes unusual (read: creepy) things. I was pretty much sold on giving this one an extended shot when Kokurou-kun (the witch hunter) broke the teacher's desk during his self-introduction to the class. It's difficult to say too much about it yet, since three chapters is roughly half a volume of manga, for a manga that comes out of a monthly publication, but the art suits the supernatural/horror vibe that it strives for, and the characters have interesting beginnings.
I still have several more chapters of this laying around in more recent Dragon Age volumes, so I'll get back to it with a firmer opinion later on.
Title: Shingetsutan Tsukihime
Audio: English, or Japanese (subtitles optional)
Story: Tokita Hiroko (script), Nasu Hinoko (original work)
Publisher: Geneon Entertainment
Overall: Having finally played through the game, I wanted to watch back through this and see why so many people who had played the game disliked the series. Well, I have to say, I'm not entirely certain what their complaints were. The story was primarily Arcueid's storyline, with a touch of the Dark Side of the Moon storylines tied in, and a few bits of originality for good measure. Now, I can understand why the purists might have wanted to see some specific things that didn't happen due to time restrictions (there's only so much room in twelve ~23-minute episodes, after all), but there's nothing there to ruin the enjoyment of what is still, even on a second watch through, and enjoyable vampire series.