Category Archives: Reviews

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 21 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Vol 21     

Author: Kazue Kato

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: January 1, 2019

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/202 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

 

The public is starting to “see” monsters! What the heck? At an emergency meeting at the Prime Minister’s residence, Lightning reminds them that Mephisto’s barrier is set to expire in February. When Sir Pheles arrives, he tells them they have to quit avoiding reality, then schedules a press conference for that afternoon. He has Shura assigned to him as security, and refers to her as the “beautiful boobalicious exorcist.”

At the press conference, the Prime Minister refers to “an anti-social organism,” as being the cause of the problem. Waiting in the wings, an amused Mephisto faces an angry Yukio Okumura, who wants him to admit he knew all along about Yukio’s flame, like his brother’s. But Mephisto refuses to rise to the bait and strides to the podium to inform the public of the existence of demons, only to be shot…

Rin watches the shocking scenario on the television and rushes to his brother’s side. Meanwhile, Shura is pointing out to the authorities who have scooped Yukio up that he can’t possibly be the shooter and they are allowing the actual shooter to escape! Thanks to Mephisto’s injuries, however, the Gehenna barrier collapses! Rin is struggling to make sense of what has happened, and why Yukio is so determined to know the truth of their birth. Is it possible he has inherited the Satan gene as well?

Rin goes to Yukio’s rescue and attempts an escape! But things do not go as planned, and everyone’s favorite double agent is on hand to add to the confusion. When the Koma sword breaks, will Rin survive?

All I can say is wow, just wow. So much going on here. It’s literally mind-blowing. I can usually tell how things will work out, but right now I can honestly say I have no clue. Yukio is undergoing his own personal trials, but so is Rin. Is Shima taking advantage of the confusion to press his own agenda? What is his agenda? I keep wondering if this is all an elaborate set-up, whereby Yukio infiltrates the other side. He’s got the brains and determination to do something like that. Rin, not so much. But I can’t tell. And what a cliffhanger too, just as Mephisto is about to spill the beans to Rin about his and Yukio’s birth.

What agony, especially not knowing how far away the next volume is. A riveting volume, a real page-turner, and one calculated to keep you on the edge of your seats! Please, next one soon!

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Book Review: Ten Count, Vol 10 by Rihito Takarai

Ten Count, Vol 3       

Author: Rihito Takarai

Publisher: SuBLime Manga

American release date: February 14, 2017

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/glbt/178 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

When Kurose takes Shirotani shopping for a new suit, he offers to take him by his apartment first so he can change out of Kurose’s clothes, which he is borrowing. Shirotani surprisingly refuses, citing the time that would be lost with the rituals he’d feel compelled to perform. This is a definite step forward for him. He does very well with the tailor, allowing him to take most of his measurements, which of course involves touching. An interesting situation arises when they take a break, and Shirotani finds himself unable to walk properly. Kurose takes him back to his apartment and helps him find relief. In the process, we learn that Shirotani is fearful that giving oral sex can lead to a bacterial infection. Where did he get this idea?

Shirotani has had as much as he can take and hurries home, unwittingly leaving a spare key with Kurose. The next day, he sleeps late and doesn’t have time to style his hair, leaving it more natural, which garners a compliment from Mikami. Feeling a little unwell, Shirotani leaves work early, in order not to exacerbate his condition. He goes to bed, feeling unable to do anything else, much less make dinner. A concerned Kurose, who hasn’t heard from him in a few days, calls. But when Shirotani suddenly stops speaking in the middle of their conversation, Kurose becomes very worried and bicycles to Shirotani’s apartment, even knowing the other man would be uncomfortable with someone else in his home. Using the spare key, he gain entry to the apartment.

Shirotani and Kurose go to an aquarium together, then arrange to watch a movie at Kurose’s apartment. Of course, one thing leads to another, and Kurose can’t help but touch Shirotani. And then he gives him an unexpected gift which holds a great deal of promise…

With each volume of Ten Count, I think we learn a little more about Shirotani. This time we witness a flashback to his childhood, and we see what he saw that was rather traumatizing and probably the beginning of his germophobia. On the other hand, we haven’t really seen what makes Kurose tick. I suspect there is more to him than meets the eye.

I think these two are really good together, and that they would make a great couple. Shirotani is already making great strides under Kurose’s tutelage. I think he has strong feelings for Kurose that he isn’t ready to express. He wants his touch and he enjoys his touch, but he has a hard time dealing with this knowledge because it also feels dirty to him. I think this all stems back to his boyhood trauma. I’m glad that Kurose established their relationship the way he did, as friends rather than therapist and patient. If it were the latter, he’d have been crossing a line, now they are equals.

Looking forward to the next volume!

Book Review: Ten Count, Vol 2 by Rihito Takarai

Ten Count, Vol 2           

Author: Rihito Takarai

Publisher: SuBLime Manga

American release date: November 8, 2016

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/glbt/184 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Shirotani is devastated after Kurose tells him they won’t be seeing each other any more. He curls up on his bed, and ceases to function, to the point where his boss and his co-worker/friend, Mikami, become concerned. He isn’t answering his phone. Mikami mentions to their boss that the only other friend he knows of is Kurose. The president gives him Kurose’s number and Mikami explains what is going on. Kurose texts as well, but receives no response. When Shirotani finally rouses himself, he realizes his phone battery is dead. After charging it, he discovers a number of messages, including one from Kurose telling him to meet him at the café on Saturday at 2 pm, and he’ll wait as long as it takes. But it’s already 7 pm! Surely Kurose isn’t still there? Shirotani can’t help but go to find out, expecting everything but what he sees—Kurose is there, waiting for him. Shirotani explodes at Kurose, in public no less, then rushes off, forgetting his train pass and his wallet in his hurry. Unable to do anything or go anywhere, he sits in the rain and despairs… until Kurose finds him.

 

Kurose envelops Shirotani in his warmth and explains why he thought he needed to put distance between them—because he realized he was falling in love with Shirotani, and he finds it harder and harder to resist the urge to touch him. They discuss the situation and Shirotani reveals that he wants to keep seeing Kurose.

 

Shirotani arrives at their next scheduled meeting only to discover Kurose not there. He receives a text from him explaining he had to cover for someone at the clinic, and he didn’t know when he can get away. So Shirotani goes to the clinic instead. Alone in the clinic, Kurose, as he has warned Shirotani, cannot resist touching him, kissing his hands… and more. Shirotani is both disgusted and turned on by what is being done to him. They finally decide to meet for the dinner that never was, although Shirotani, as usual, doesn’t eat, but does drink some champagne. Perhaps it’s the influence of the champagne that loosens his tongue when he admits that he’s been thinking all day about Kurose touching him. Kurose tells him to come with him, he wants to take him somewhere he can do even more unpleasant things to him.

 

There is so much going on this volume. It’s obvious that Shirotani is both attracted and repelled by Kurose. The chemistry between these two men is palpable. The one thing that bugs me about Kurose, though, is that as a trained therapist, he has made no attempt to get to the root of Shirotani’s problems. It’s obvious to me that Shirotani has been abused, and he’s never dealt with what happened, which has led to his disgust with and inability to be touched. So far, Kurose is just treating the symptoms, not the disease. I’m worried that at some point, something he does is going to trigger something in Shirotani that might make him worse.

 

I’m sure Kurose has his own backstory, and I look forward to knowing more about both of them. This is not your typical m/m romance, and yet it is very romantic and sexy. I especially appreciate the artwork, and that the graphic scenes have not been erased in any way, as is the case with most yaoi manga. Four more volumes to go, can’t wait!

 

If you like men who are real and not perfect, and real romance, this maybe the manga for you!

 

 

Book Review: Soul Eater, Vol 2 by Atsushi Ohkubo

Soul Eater, Vol 2   

Author: Atsushi Ohkubo

Publisher: Yen Press

American release date: May 6, 2014

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Shinigama-sama has given Maka, Soul, Black Star, and Tsubaki a remedial lesson – they must take the soul of one Dr. Stein. Watching from a distance, Death the Kid tells his father this is much too difficult a task for a remedial lesson. Dr. Stein is an unusual man,  stitched-together and more than a little clumsy. Dr. Stein tells Maka and Soul that their soul wavelengths are unstable, because she is a serious, hardworking person and he is a rebellious and cynical soul. Looking at Black Star and Tsubaki, Stein observes that Black Star has one of the most self-centered souls he’s ever seen, and that Tsubaki is highly cooperative and very accepting of people.

Meanwhile, Maka’s dad, Death Scythe, is having a good old time at the Cabaret Club Chupacabra’s. But his high spirits take a nosedive every time he thinks about his recent divorce, and the daughter who doesn’t love him.

Dr. Stein asks Maka if she is Spirit-senpai’s daughter, which was her dad’s name before he became Death Scythe. Apparently Dr. Stein was once his partner. According to Death Scythe, Stein experimented on him in his sleep, for five whole years! Stein tells Maka how much he would enjoy dissecting her, thinking of all the things he would do to her! Death the Kid tell his father he is going to go help them and when his father argues that he is not a student at DWMA, Kid instructs his father to add him to the Student Register, takes his guns and goes even as the students battle Dr. Stein for their lives!

Death the Kid has decided to go to school. But promptness is apparently not his forte, as he is already three hours late on his first day! Maka and Tsubaki are in class, where they belong, but Black Star is lying in wait for the shinigami’s son to arrive, because he can’t stand the idea of someone getting more attention than him, and Soul is just hanging out with him to skip class.

Death Scythe has been replaced as their teacher by none other than Dr. Stein, much to their chagrin. Maka says that for the first time she’d rather see her dad!  Death the Kid arrives, along with Patty and Liz, and Soul and Black Star are on it! Kid isn’t too concerned, until one of them spoils the symmetry of the school, then all bets are off! When the class becomes aware of the fight going on, Maka informs Stein that he is required to go out there, which he is less than willing to do, so he takes Maka and Tsubaki with him. Since Maka has learned to see souls, Stein gives her an extra assignment, to look at the wavelength between each meister and his weapon(s) and evaluate their resonance.

In Florence, a witch overs over the Santa Mario Novella Basilica. Inside is a demon sword master, Crona, and his demon sword, Ragnarok. Meanwhile, Maka and Soul are on assignment, devouring souls, when Maka hears strange noises coming from the Basilica. She senses a meister inside, along with fifty or sixty human souls. As they draw nearer, suddenly she can’t sense the souls anymore. It’s probably not a good idea but she’s determined to find out what’s going on….

I like the character development that is taking place in this series. You never know when someone you think is bad will turn out to be good, after all. Relatively speaking. For example, there is Dr. Stein, who is certainly eccentric but also brilliant.  I loved the scene where Death Scythe shows up at the school to see Maka but detours to the nurse’s office first for some TLC and runs right into his old meister, Stein, who is not hesitant to mess with him again. Death Scythe is easy to intimidate. He’s a lover, not a fighter. But later on, in the basilica, we see the fighter side of him, which is impressive.

Soul and Black Star teaming up to go against Death the Kid is hilarious. It’s no surprise to discover that their souls do not resonate.   The story of the encounter with the kishin in the Basilica is a good one, and the entire volume ends with an unexpected twist.

I’m enjoying the series and looking forward to the next volume.

Book Review: Blue Exorcist, Vol 20 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Vol 20     

Author: Kazue Kato

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: October 2, 2018

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/210 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

The Ex-wires decide to throw a party—a combination birthday and Christmas party. Rin buys some cheap reindeer ears for himself and a moustache and glasses costume for Yukio, who is less than impressed. Shiemi dresses as Santa Claus and carries a large bag containing a full-sized decorated Christmas tree (it’s actually Nee). When tragedy accidentally ensues, they salvage what they can, and save the day by having a hot-pot party. As they are partying, Shima receives a call from his older brother Juzo—he and Mamushi are going to have a baby! Although they are officially married, they are going to have a ceremony for family, and they want Shima and Bon and Konekomaru to attend!

After the party, Rin and Yukio learn, to their surprise, that Shura lives in their dorm too. Shura has had a bit to drink and mentions to them that she met their mother. Naturally, they want details, so Shura tells them the story, which occurred when she was a bratty little girl being raised by Father Fujimoto. Afterward, the brothers discuss what they found out. Yukio expresses a desire to know more about their mother, but Rin doesn’t, to his brother’s surprise.

The Ex-wires all travel to Kyoto for the wedding. Everyone pitches in to help with preparations, although with his arm in a sling, Yukio is limited in what he can do. Lots of family members show up from both sides. Rin is concerned about his brother. He feels as if something is wrong with him, but he doesn’t know what.

Even from Kyoto, Bon checks on Lightning, chastising him to get out of bed. As soon as he hangs up with Bon, Lightning places another call, asking about Dr. Dragulescu’s schedule. Shima is sitting alone, away from the festivities, when Konekomaru finds him. They have a talk, and Shima starts to feel better about himself.

The Ex-Wires and a few others head to the temple for New Year’s Eve, with a stern warning to stay together, but Rin finds himself standing next to Shiemi, separated from the others. He reveals to her his feelings that Yukio is hiding something from him. Before they can really talk, though, they are discovered and the moment passes.

New Year’s Day. Bon helps his father prepare for the wedding ceremony. He asks him about Father Fujimoto, but before Tatsuma can respond, he is called away. Afterward, Bon is seated next to Yukio, during the ceremony. Yukio overheard Bon’s question, and wants to know what Lightning is investigating. Even as they speak, Lightning is making his move, but Bon tells Yukio he can’t reveal any information regarding the investigation. The situation threatens to boil over when Yukio threatens Bon with a gun, but everything ends up being put on hold when the Ex-wires are recalled to handle a dangerous situation—a Cyclops is loose in Ikebukuro Station!

There is a lot going on in this volume of Blue Exorcist, aside from the wedding and New Year’s and the baby. Yukio is trying to figure things out, such as why Father Fujimoto raised him and Rin, what is their mother’s story, and what do Bon and Lightning have to do with anything? Rin is trying to understand why Shiemi has chosen not to take the exorcist’s exam, although she assures him it isn’t because she is dying or moving or anything, but she can’t tell him the reason. She just can’t. We see Lightning in action and get a better feel for what he does. I have to say I’m liking him more than I did before. Shima is a hard person to get a handle on. As a double spy, it’s hard to say which is his true face, and which side is he truly on. Yukio reveals a surprising memory, which is a tender moment. I like seeing more of Shura as a little girl, it’s really cute.

On pins and needles now, waiting for the next volume!

 

Book Review: Ten Count, Vol 1 by Rihito Takarai

Ten Count, Vol 1   

Author: Rihito Takarai

Publisher: SuBLime Manga

American release date: August 9, 2016

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/glbt/178 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Shirotani believes that the whole world is dirty and contaminated. Handling certain objects is difficult for him, at best. Even so, he considers his beliefs to be his problem and no one else’s. But perhaps it’s time to readjust his thinking when he finds himself the cause of his employer being injured in an accident. Through the accident, Shirotani meets Kurose, who makes some very astute observations regarding Shirotani’s idiosyncracies. How does Kurose know? Kurose suggests Shirotani see a counselor and gives him a card, which Shirotani surprisingly keeps.

Not sure why, Shirotani finds himself in front of the address on the card. As he’s standing there, Kurose rides up on his bicycle. It turns out he’s a counselor at the center. He’s glad to see Shirotani there. But when Shirotani attempts to bolt, Kurose suggests that perhaps the two of them can meet, outside of the center, so he can help Shirotani. They end up meeting at a restaurant where they discuss Shirotani’s problem and some of the limits of what he can and cannot do. Kurose has him make out a list of ten actions or activities Shirotani has an aversion to, with number one being the one with the least aversion and so on. Shirotani leaves the number ten spot open, and Kurose says he can fill it in later. By the time he completes everything on the list, Kurose declares, Shirotani will be cured! Kurose assures Shirotani he need never come to the clinic. When he asks about a consulting fee, Kurose says there will be none, as he’s doing it on his own time. When Shirotani asks why he would do that, he’s surprised at Kurose’s answer—he wants to be Shirotani’s friend!

And so they begin with the first item on Shirotani’s list—to touch a door knob bare-handed.

I think the premise for this yaoi series is very unique. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I like the way it handles Shirotani’s compulsions, never making light of them. Kurose is a thorough professional and very understanding. When Shirotani is late, Kurose usually knows why that is, what he’s gone through just to get there. But I think he also realizes he has feelings for Shirotani that he isn’t about to reveal or burden him with while they are in this current relationship of counselor and counselee. Of course I’m hoping that Shirotani and Kurose will become a couple, and I’m hoping that the tenth unrevealed item on Shirotani’s list is to be able to fall in love, and that he will do so with Kurose. Time will tell. There are five more volumes to go, looking forward to reading them.

 

Book Review: Soul Eater, Vol 1 by Atsushi Ohkubo

Soul Eater, Vol 1 

Author: Atsushi Ohkubo

Publisher: Yen Press

American release date: April 22, 2014

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/208 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Maka is a scythemeister and a student at DWMA—Death Weapon Meister Academy. Her partner is a living scythe named Soul Eater. Maka’s goal is to make him into a death scythe worthy of being used by Death himself. In order to do this, Soul must consume 99 souls and one witch. Easier said than done. Currently, Death (also known as Shinigami-sama) is using Death Scythe as his current weapon. Death Scythe also happens to be Maka’s father, who is constantly yelling at Soul, warning him not to touch his little girl. When he isn’t busy being a major horn dog, that is. Despite his many protestations of love for his daughter, Maka spurns him, which reduces him to tears. Soul already has his 99 souls, all he needs is the witch. They find a witch by the name of Blair, so now the battle is on!

Black Star is a shadow weapon meister who wields a demon shadow weapon called Tsubaki. So far, he has collected zero souls, mostly because he is an egocentric loud-mouth who can’t seem to keep from announcing his presence and his intentions even in situations that require stealth and silence. When Shinigami-sama tells them there is a special way to become Death’s weapon without absorbing the souls of 99 humans and one witch, Black Star wants to know more. This way involves humans who are stronger than normal humans. And there is such a human, named Mifune, who is nearby. He is the bodyguard for a witch named Angela. That’s all Black Star needs to hear. Off they go! Does he have what it takes to defeat Mifune and absorb Angela’s soul?

Shinigami-sama has a son, Death the Kid. He wields two weapons, a pair of demon twin guns who are sisters, Patty and Liz. Death’s biggest problem is his unswerving need for symmetry. If something is asymmetrical, it throws him off his game and he becomes obsessed with making it right. His own hair distresses him because he has three white streaks on one side that are not on the other. As a shinigami, Death the Kid doesn’t need to collect souls, but he wants to make his own weapon with his own two hands. Because he uses two weapons, that means he needs to collect twice the number of souls. He asks his father if he knows anywhere he can get a large amount of souls. Shinigami-sama sends him to the pyramid Anubis in Egypt, where a necromancer witch is creating a large number of mummies. Will he be able to find the souls he needs and defeat the witch, or will his need for symmetry disrupt his plans?

The first day of school! Maka is excited and goes to wake Soul, only to find him in a distasteful position! When she finally gets him to school, they speculate about who their new home room teacher will be as the previous one was killed. To Maka’s dismay, the new teacher turns out to be Death Scythe! From the beginning, he is very upsetting to his daughter, like when he announces he’ll only take attendance for the ladies. Luckily for Maka and Soul, their presence is requested by the Shinigami-sama, so they leave the classroom. They run into Black Star and Tsubaki, who have also been summoned. Can this be a special assignment for them? Or is it something a lot worse?

I loved the first volume of Soul Eater. The characters are interesting and the artwork is really cool. Maka’s father, Death Scythe, is pretty cute even if he can’t stop perving on all the girls. I like Death the Kid, even though he’s a little strange. There are a lot of strange people in this world, though, to be honest. We meet another one at the end of the volume, and learn what his relationship to Death Scythe is.

I like the artwork, especially the color pictures of the moon. I would say my only real complaint is the amount of fanservice in just one volume. By which I mean lots of boobage. Which is great if you’re into that, not so much if you aren’t. I just tend to ignore it and move on. I am also watching the anime, which left me a little confused, which is why I decided to read the manga too. That makes the anime clearer.

This story has a great deal of humor and a lot of soul – no pun intended. I recommend this for teenagers and adults alike. I look forward to reading volume 2.