Manga Mondays: LAST GAME

LAST GAME

Title: LAST GAME [ ?????? ]
Author: Amano Shinobu (Story & Art)
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Shoujo
Published: Aug 24, 2011
Chapters: 18 (On-Going)
Serialization: LALA Magazine

LAST GAME is a manga I have come across about a little more than a year ago, and I quickly fell in love with it. As of the late I have been meaning to write up a recommendation post and on Saturday boom, I finally got down to it. Keep in mind this isn’t a review, it is a recommendation post.

At first glance (or more accurately right off the bat with the first page), to those who are familiar or have read Special A (S.A.) might feel or jump to the conclusion that it’s the exactly same as S.A, only with reversed genders- but it’s not. In fact it is FAR from it. That isn’t what the story is about at all.

The “Last Game” is all about a challenge that Yanagi had proposed to Kujou in hopes to help her recognize his romantic feelings towards her, thus once she does Yanagi wins and already has plans to get engaged with her. It’s a very sweet, because Kujou’s world is only starting to open up now- but you have to feel for Yanagi as Kujou accidentally and repetitively drops the “Friend-Zone” bombs onto him since she is so happy now that she can fully embrace life and identifies Yanagi as her good friend.

LAST GAME

In the beginning, the story heavily focuses on Yanagi’s perspective, but now as Kujou is now gradually becoming more aware about Love and her feelings towards Yanagi, the focus as shifted to her. Either way it is balanced out between the two of them starting from Chapter 4. They are really two precious idiots, and you will absolutely love them.

LAST GAME covers their Primary School, Middle School, and High School before jumping to their University life- which is great because there aren’t enough shoujo stories taking place at a time when the characters are more mature than they would be in high school.

Yanagi Hisato starts off as a real stuck up kid who is very proud of his family’s success, being top of the class and athletics and even gets scouted by talent scouts. He identified himself as King of the World.
However everything changed when Kujou Mikoto transferred to his class. He was quickly dethroned by Kujou who proven to be a formidable rival who could care less about his rivalry. Yanagi quickly learns that Kujou works hard at what she does because she wants to become independent as soon as possible for her mother’s sake. Having learned that Kujou doesn’t have any tutors nor does she attend cram school Yanagi decided to try winning with his own strength. Then when it came to choosing which middle school to attend, after having heard Kujou is going to a public, Yanagi goes to the same instead of the private one he was initially going to enter. However despite his efforts, even without being in the same class- Kujou continued to keep him in second place. With that said, one could say that Yanagi either had an unhealthy obsession with trying to defeat her, or is really dedicated and attached to her. I have always felt it was more of the latter simply because Yanagi will NOT put up with people saying crap about Kujou.

Soon enough Love is pulled into play when Yanagi overheard some boys talking about how “The one who falls in love first is the loser”, and decides to switch up his tactics to trying to make Kujou fall in love/develop a crush on him- which proves to be far more difficult than he had anticipated since Love and relationships never once have ever crossed Kujou’s mind. But what makes Yanagi fall for Kujou in the first place is because she could care less about his family status, it doesn’t faze her- instead she sees him for who he is, something that he relishes since its his family title and good looks are really what makes him popular.
It’s in high school when the two of them really starts getting to know each other. Yanagi was there when Kujou received a call that her mother was in the hospital and saw a whole different side of her and continued to stick by her side as a friend ever since.

Despite only having been three chapters, because Yanagi had debuted at a young age, over the course of the ten years you can see Yanagi’s growth and maturity. The only thing that hasn’t changed is his stuck-up personality. He can’t help it, that’s just who he is- and in a ways rightfully so (excluding his good-looks) ever since he cast aside his tutors and stopped going to cram school and took upon the challenge itself to get where he is today.

Chapter 3 is when things finally kicks off by jumping straight to University and we finally get to see things in Kujou’s perspective where as we learn more about her mindset and what she had thought of Yanagi’s ten years of persistence.

I really felt for Kujou during this particular chapter because after all of these years, since childhood Kujou has always put her mother first, and only now- when she is in University her mother tells her “Don’t think too much about me, I hope you can chase your own happiness” like, woman- she devoted her entire childhood for your sake and you are only telling her this now? Kujou understandably is stunned because she doesn’t know what else to do. She doesn’t have anything. She never got to experience that. Or rather, she never had a childhood. Yanagi is all she has who have been by her side for ten years.

Now that Kujou is ready to embrace life and is looking to expand her social circle by joining clubs, she also drawing attention to herself. Yanagi quickly finds out that there is competition brewing, as likewise to Kujou who eventually encounters a girl who is quite determined to make Yanagi’s hers. Unfortunately for both opposing characters their love is one-sided, but it’s thanks to them that Kujou starts to becomes more aware of her feelings towards Yanagi because up to this point, she was oblivious to these emotions nor has she ever experienced it.

When I first started reading the LAST GAME, it was simply the short-stories, I thought that was the end of it-a done deal. So when I learned that it was being made into a series (and was picked up by fan-translaters), I was ecstatic. I sincerely hope that Kodansha or VizMedia (since I DOUBT that YenPress would ever license this title since it’s not really their thing) that will license this title one day- I HAVE A MIGHTY NEED TO HAVE IT IN MY COLLECTION (I own the Japanese copy of Vol 1 and 2 though- not that I can read them yet…). It is really sweet, the characters are refreshing and adorable and you know what I love best about this story? It is one hell of a slow love story and Yanagi and Kujou love each other for who they are. While it is taking it’s sweet time it also manages to have a great pace which is one of the key things that keep my sanity when it come down to slower developments. On top of that, this isn’t dealing with the same old repetition and “demand for challenge” like Special A, which was something I absolutely loathed because I quickly grew tired of it and stopped collecting the series at Vol 10. (I mean it’s not entirely bad, but overtime it gets really annoying).

So if you like… or rather have the patience for slow, but gradually developing shoujo romance, this is definitely a title you should start reading or add to your ‘to-read’ list.

Manga Mondays: Mars

Today we review Mars, one of the most definitive manga of the Josei genre, by Fuyumi Soryu.

It would be a lie to say Mars isn’t one of the original culprits of the bad boy good girl cliche. Fortunately for all of you, this manga is not promoting the idea of complete self inversion for the sake of lurve. No, what makes Mars so special is the opposite. In Mars you have two characters damaged by well, life, and they don’t make a miraculous change in their personalities once they find each other. The point of Mars instead is that they find love together and achieve happiness through accepting themselves and each other.

That’s one of the reasons why to this day, Mars has remained a favorite of mine. Accidentally purchased by my mother for me when I wanted the shounen manga Mar (unknown to me, it was scanlated and my friends were all reading it offline, not buying it) I have not regretted the purchase since. The manga starts with extremely shy Kira Aso giving directions to Rei Kashino. This might have been a normal situation, but she just so happened to draw directions on a sketch of a mother and child. This prompted Rei to take an interest in Kira who remained shy. It takes literal hair pulling and threatening of a pervert teacher to eventually draw them together, and Rei becomes Kira’s model and eventually graduates to full time protector (and then boyfriend) status.

Rei is a pervert. As such he well…has slept with a lot of women. Many who are out either to warn Kira or seduce Rei, but thankfully that plot element is a back up to the actual story. The only actual jealous other girls we see are a soon to be ex of his and Harumi. Harumi is your token female friend, but she’s a little more twisted than most female friends. Harumi is actually in love with Rei in the beginning. The reason for this is that they slept together in freshman year… but well. Rei is a playboy. If he loved all the women he had sex with this manga would probably be a lot worse. Or about polygamy. He does not return her feelings but she wants Kira to screw off anyway, and even threatens to break her hands if she refuses. Kira then confesses that she’d even learn to draw with her feet or even her mouth if it meant she could still be with Rei. Their odd friendship begins when Harumi can’t bring herself to injure Kira. And the token male friend? Well he’s not that creative. Tatsuya is just in love with Kira and best friends with Rei. The other potential love interest is meant to show you that Rei is sincerely interested in Kira, as he explains he wants to be around Kira because they actually talk. So thankfully, that’s all we really see of that.

What makes this manga a definite recommendation from me is several things. First off, everything cliche is either done tastefully or with enough of a flavor to it to make it bearable. Luckily there’s not that much of it, but there are some pretty foreshadowed events of their lives that are kind of overplayed. Again, I give it a break because the manga is from a long time ago back when the cliche wasn’t used as much. Second off, and the biggest reason, is what I mentioned in the beginning. This is a real person romance. This, for the most part, involves two people who are dealing with their own issues and trying to figure life out. I can buy almost everything they throw at me. Hell, Rei is rich but he isn’t like all other delinquent children of rich people, his father flat out cut him off and he has to work to support himself. And well

THE ROMANCE IS BADASS.

What else can I say for a shoujo? I mean seriously. Several of the events between Kira and Rei seem believable and endearing too. They fight, they fail at things, they are forced to give things up to be together, they have to work their asses off to be together- and they’re still together in the end. It’s like a real relationship! They both have needs and deal breakers and have to clash based on them. Kira’s poor because she’s with Rei and can’t afford to go to art school. And when the magical power of money fixes this it’s because Rei had to give up motorcycles. My only real critique in the end is that everything does get solved in the story through means the real world might not offer, but there’s definitely issues in the relationship that need to be fixed and that can’t be changed. Kira’s shy and can’t stick up for herself against strangers- Rei is a pervert who can’t compromise on sex even if he can be monogamous and at the end of the day he takes on a dangerous career that could kill him.

It’s hard for me to scream at you about this manga because I’ve had it for so long that all my thoughts on it have become a well thought out recommendation. But despite that I can really tell you, read this MOTHER ^$%&ING MANGA. It’s magical. Also it’s HAWT. It’s so hawt man, volume ten I mean DAAAAAAAAAAMN. WHEN THEY GET IT ON THEY GET IT ON I MEAN YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH

…….Go read it.

Oki

Manga Mondays: Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun

Oh boy am I excited for this one! Read on to find out more about Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun!

I had a bit of a hard time choosing which manga to review first (since there are a lot of good ones out there that deserve more attention than they get) but with the anime adaption coming up in October, I though it would probably be best to start with this one. It also doesn’t help that this is one of my favorite mangas that’s currently being serialized.

Title: Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun (The Monster Seated Next to Me)
Author: Robiko0
Japanese Publisher: Dessert, October 2008
English Publisher: None (?)
Genres: Comedy, Romance, School Stuff, Shoujo
Total Volumes: 9+ On-Going

Tonari no Kaibutsu-Kun, which I’m just going to shorten down to Tonari from here on out, sets up a storyline that is possibly as old as the sun: a simple tale of Girl meets Boy. She’s a good student, but a bit of a loner because of it and he’s a wild child delinquent, who is always getting into fights. By some chance they meet and start to develop feelings for each other while attracting friends blah, blah, blah, etc etc etc. We’ve all read this story a million times, right? Well, that’s were Tonari takes your expectations of that old story, slaps them, and then turns them on their heads.

Haru Yoshida, the hero of our tale

Our main heroine is Shizuku Mizutani, a high school girl obsessed with studying so that she can make 10 million yen a year once she graduates. She’s a very cold, distant person, who doesn’t interact with other people and or have any friends. She’s also incredibly honest and straightforward. One day, her teacher manages to bribe her (with text books!) into taking some class notes to a student who’s been absent since the first day of class.

Enter Haru Yoshida, who, because of his inablity to interact with people, has been suspended from school for fighting. They meet, and Haru, after deducing that people only bring their “Friends” notes when they are absent, decides that Shizuku must be his friend. It’s at around this time that Shizuku realizes that Haru 1. clearly understands social norms less than she does and 2. that he’s a naive fool. It turns out that Haru wants to come back to school but is afraid to do so because everyone wants to fight him (in reality, everyone is scared of him.) With some straight talk and a bit of coaxing, Shizuku (reluctantly) gets Haru to come back to school.

The story evolves from there, mostly focusing on how Shizuku and Haru grow and mature mentally as they make friends and start their off-beat courtship. We’re introduced to characters like Natsume Asako, a pretty girl who lives her life online and desperately wants to make real life friends but is hampered by her good looks that make boys confess to her all the time and girls to hate her because of it, Souhei Sasahara, an absolutely normal baseball player who’s really the only one who seems to understand how real people function, and Kenji “Yamaken” Yamaguchi, a smart rich kid who is Haru’s “love rival”.

Sounds like a totally normal Shoujo manga up till now, right? But there two things that make this a “MUST READ” in my mind and not something to be missed because it sounds like something we’ve all read before.

Kenji “Yamaken” Yamaguchi, love rival and professional cabbage holder

1. The characters actually MATURE. Shizuku, Haru, and Natsume ALL have serious problems interacting in a social setting at the start of the manga. But they learn from their mistakes and start to actually GROW AS PEOPLE. They aren’t just reduced down to their quirks and doomed to play to those stereotypical rolls until two chapters before the end when they suddenly become a whole other person (if they change at all!)

Take Shizuku for example. At the start of the story she can’t fathom basic human emotions like sadness at a class pet dying or wanting to feel close to other people because those emotions would distract her from her studies (and side note: she actually has a legitimate and sort of heart-breaking reason to want to earn so much money other than wanting to be rich.) But she doesn’t STAY an emotionless robot. In just 33 chapters she actually gets to the point where she can understand and comfort Natsume when she’s upset.

Does she have a long way to go still? Yes. Does she make mistakes along the way? Oh yes. But that’s what makes her (and all the other characters) so great; they’re all flawed but working to better themselves and that’s what makes them so likable and human. And because of that, this becomes one of those rare mangas where you like ALL the characters, even the “rivals” (I part of me loves the idea of Shizuku and Yamaken together, even though a bigger part of me loves Shizuku and Haru)

Plus, it’s just nice to read a shoujo manga where the characters actually notice and acknowledge their feelings, talk about them in a (semi)normal manner, and where the main girl character doesn’t spend 20 chapters wondering “Why is my heart going doki-doki all the time around Boy X?” before she finally realizes she’s in love.

Shizuku Mizutani, looking adorable and like I want to squish her face

2. The art. This might not seem like a very good reason but trust me, it is. Tonari is drawn in a style that is sooooo not a typical shoujo style. There are no blooming flowers in the background everywhere, no dramatic two page spreads (I can only think of about 3 full page spreads in all the volumes up till now), no super long flowing hair all over the place. I mean, 95% of the time Shizuku’s eyes are just simple black orbs as opposed to the huge, flashy eyes that are typical of the genre. Very, very, rarely are any eyes shown with a clear iris and pupil. When’s the last time you saw that in a shoujo manga? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it’s wrong that most shoujo manga is super flowery and sparkly like a Twilight vampire in the sunlight, but it’s just so refreshing to see something done differently.

I could keep going about this manga for another 1,000 (or more) words, and I still wouldn’t do it justice. What it boils down to is this: this is a great, if slightly underrated, manga, with stellar characters, one-of-a-kind art, heart palpitation inducing romance (HARU AND SHIZUKU ARE SO CUTE TOGETHER IT WILL MAKE YOU WANT TO VOMIT RAINBOWS), good humor, and is just generally something off the beaten path. I can highly recommend it to you (even if you don’t typically like shoujo), especially at a time like now, right before the new anime starts (which I’m hoping will be good and stay faithful to the spirit of the manga.) I’m not totally sure if this manga has been licensed yet (some sources say yes, some say no. I can’t find any printed copies on any website or a release date for any of the volumes) so look it up online, and hopefully, it and the anime will both get proper releases soon!

Stray thoughts that didn’t fit anywhere else:

  • Speaking of refreshing, it’s nice that Shizuku doesn’t cry every three chapters like a typical shoujo heroine. (Actually, Haru is really the one who cries. And only twice and once was because he was happy. As far as I can remember.)
  • Finally, a manga where misunderstandings are cleared up as soon as they happen and aren’t dragged on and on and on for chapter after chapter! (I’m looking at you Kimi ni Todoke…)
  • Did I mention that the love confession happens in chapter one? ‘Cause it does. That’s how good this manga is.
  • As if you need yet another reason to read this: There’s no “evil” girl (or group of girls) who picks on the heroine for no reason other than she’s evil and jealous! Seriously, that’s one thing I usually hate in high school based shoujo.

Manga Mondays: Kamisama Hajimemashita

Manga Mondays will be the days when we post about manga (or even Manhwa series) that we recommend. These will be treated differently than an overall review, (which will have its own posts unless the author of the post says otherwise).

To kick things off, I decided to start off with Kamisama Hajimemashita for various of reasons.
For one, I’ve been re-reading it non-stop as of the late due to the current arc searching for clues for theories (BECAUSE THEY ARE THERE), and two; the anime will be debuting this Fall on October 1st! :3 This is my first time writing recommendations or anything involving books and graphics novels in a long time, so hopefully this will turn out okay. PLUS IT’S BEEN SO LONG SINCE I’VE WRITTEN ANYTHING!!!

Title: Kamisama Hajimemashita (Kamisama Kiss)
Author: Suzuki Jurietta
Japanese Publisher: Hakusensha, March 2008
English Publisher: VizMedia: Shojo Beat, January 2010
Genres: Supernatural, Comedy, Romance, Fantasy, Shoujo, Supernatural
Total Volumes: 13+ On-Going

Kamisama Hajimemashita (Otherwise known as Kamisama Kiss in English) is about a girl, Momozono Nanami who suddenly finds herself evicted from her home after her father had ran away and left her behind due to gambling debts. While sitting in the park trying to figure out what to do, she helps a man named Mikage out who in return after hearing her story gives her his home. Nanami goes to her new home only to be greeted by yokai, and discover that Mikage had given her the power of the Land God of a Relationship Shrine.

If you haven’t heard of, or read Kamisama Hajimemashita yet, I highly encourage you to go and read it.

It’s a romantic comedy that is light-hearted and fun to read and at times you will be struck by a wave of FEELS. The story is developing beautifully and at a steady pace. So far I’ve enjoyed every arc and enjoy re-reading over and over and over again. Moreover, thanks to the current arc (starting Chapter 78), it appears that Suzuki-sensei had everything planned from the start. If you back into the volumes, you’ll find all sorts of hints to help you come up with theories and speculations. I’ve always enjoyed series that allowed you do that. It makes the experience all more fun and memorable. All the characters are likeable even if they have the ‘jerk’ role or the antagonist roles. What it appears right now is, and how I like it, that even the villains have another side of them, but it’s not out of character, it’s just part of who they are. It sheds a new light on them, and it makes them all more unique and appreciated. Right now, though most of us (the fans) seems to have grasped who is the potential head villain of the series, but at the same time same of us (including myself) also doubtful as it may be a trick to throw us into a twist.

Nanami is one of those badass heroines who will never act as a helpless Damsel in Distress as long as she lives. While there have, and will be times when she can’t do anything because of the lack of power or ran out of materials, Nanami, no matter how dire the situation may be- will not give up without a fight, or if necessary, running away (hahahaha). She strives to become stronger so that she would not have to depend on Tomoe so often and in return hopes to protect him and others.

Tomoe, a fox yokai who had originally served and been rescued by Mykage is now Nanami’s shinshi as well as her love interest. He is the kind of character you can’t get enough of. Mischievous, sly and badass, with a touch of loyalty and desires, even when he denies it, you will love the interaction between these two. Both of their stubborn natures clashing fuelling into hilarious battering.

The series is currently up to 12 volumes in Japan (the 13th is coming out in September (Limited Edition Volume comes with a Drama CD) along with the first fanbook Vol 13.5) VizMedia is currently up to 10 volumes, but is releasing it on a 2 month basis (so not too long of a wait!!! AND DON’T COMPLAIN, I HAVE TO WAIT FOR LA CORDA D’ORO FOR AT LEAST 6 MONTHS. THAT SERIES ENDED LAST YEAR IN JAPAN!!!) so Volume 11 will be out this November, and Vol 12 will be out February, and then Vol 13 will be out in April.

If you love it, purchase it to support the Mangaka because this series is the kind you’d want to own. Being used to be letdown by VizMedia’s crappy translations, I wasn’t holding much hope when I ordered the first volume. However, Viz proved me wrong and given us quality translations for an exchange. You can enjoy their translations just as much, and at times even more than fan-translations. I’m a bit sad that they haven’t started to include color pages like they’ve been doing recently for the new series that they’ve just licensed (I don’t see the harm in starting wherever they are at now). Anyhow, hopefully Viz will release the fanbook that will be coming out this September in Japan (I already pre-ordered mine heehee~) and some company will license Kamisama Hajimemashita’s anime, regardless as how it might turn out.

Claymore: The Warrior Returns [Overview] OH MY GOOOOOD

Claymore: The Warriors Returns Overview

If you’re like me, you’re obsessed with Claymore. And if you’re like me, ALL OF THE FEELS WERE HAD OVER THIS CHAPTER.


For the past several years I’ve been a super huge fan of Claymore. I’m such a big Claymore fan that I own it, and didn’t just illegally download it. And more than anything I have been FUCKING WAITING FOR THIS.

Maybe you’re all unfamiliar with Claymore beyond the anime. Alright, let me give you the downlow. After the 7 year period in which the main cast was ‘dead’ shit has been going on like you wouldn’t believe. The truth behind the Organization, the truth of the youma, the badassery of Clare- damn shit son it’s been a good run. If only it updated more frequently….but at least it’s not Berserk. No, Claymore’s got all of my feelings. So this chapter the stepping stone for the WHAT I AM HOPING TO BE BADASS finale is here. The truth of the Claymore’s hideous wounds are revealed, and Clare and Raki are reunited.

Guys I just. You don’t understand. This shit was so long coming the only thing that takes longer is a spirit bomb. No, you know what’s even longer? The amount of time it took in Kimi Ni Todoke for Kazehaya’s balls to drop. NO, you know what it’s more like? IT’S MORE LIKE MY UPDATE SCHEDULE

Unfortunately only one out of the two was genuinely what I was expected and hoping for. You see, Raki and Clare’s reunion was perfect. Raki is this big badass now and seeing him be nothing like Raki felt weird. But then we saw him break down into tears and hug Clare and I knew…man I knew he was Raki ALL OF MY FEELINGS GUYS COME ON. It was beautiful. There were boobies everywhere. So many boobies. And so many feelings. So many damn. Feelings.

Feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiingssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss

But then the big reveal of the story came up. We learned what the disfigurement of the Claymore’s is…and I dunno man. I think a group of crazy ass rapists would not be thrown off by a bunch of stitches. I know that they have basically raw living flesh sewn together in full view, and I’m sure it’s unsettling, but why didn’t she like…draw nasty rotting wounds there around the stitches? That would have been freaky. But these ladies are hot outside of the stitches, I really don’t think a bunch of murdering psychos would care too much about it in the end.


But even if it’s not the shock value I want…it sure as hell is cool looking. Do you know how much art there is going to be? TO PIXXIV

So now friends we wait and see. Personally I WANT CLARE TO BE SUPER FUCKING POWERFUL. There’s no way the new skin in her is Theresa’s right? Well wouldn’t it be badass if she suddenly became ultra fucking powerful because she was now half youma instead? Aw shit son HALF DRAGON. Guys THE POWER LEVELS THE POWER LEVELS

KILL THAT BITCH CLARE KILL HER

THE POWER LEEEEEVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELS

Oki