Friday, November 30, 2012

Blue Exorcist by Kazue Katō

I realized that I haven't reviewed any shonen manga on my blog yet! Shonen manga are geared towards boys and feature more action and adventure with a strong focus on friends and rivals. Some popular shonen series are Bleach, One Piece, and Naruto

Blue Exorcist by Kazue Katō is an exciting series that is fairly new. We began to see it in the US with the release of the anime in Japan, but the manga began in 2009 in Japan.

Two twin brothers are raised by Father Shiro Fujimoto. Rin Okumura is the protagonist-- he is reckless and always in trouble. Father Fujimoto ends up dying trying to protect him, which is when Rin discovers that he is the son of Satan. In trying to exact revenge he draws the Kurikara sword, which unleashes his demonic powers. When he meets Mephisto Pheles at Father Fujimoto's funeral he declares that he wants to become an exorcist like Father Fujimoto was, and Mephisto Pheles happens to be the headmaster at the True Cross Academy where young exorcists go to train.

Upon arriving at True Cross Academy Rin learns that his brother Yukio is not only already at True Cross Academy, but he is an instructor at the academy! Rin must conceal his nature and learn to control his powers. He wants to fit in and make friends, but he's also living in his brother's shadow. 

Throughout the series we see Rin grow as a person, as well as discover the story behind Father Fujimoto, True Cross Academy, and the history of exorcists. Blue Exorcist is a shonen manga, so it focuses on action-- training, fighting-- and it's fast-paced. Although Rin is the main character each character is interesting-- there are very few that lack a background and purposeful role. 

As far as shonen manga goes this has a stronger plot. The cast of characters is smaller and I think that allows deeper reflection on the characters and their goals and relationships than other series tend to do. Even the "bad guys" are complex and well-written instead of random enemy #5497 that you forget about in a few volumes. Right now the series in the US is at volume 8, but only up to volume 9 in Japan! 

I recommend checking out Blue Exorcist now before it's a million volumes long (shonen manga series tend to be very lengthy... Bleach is at volume 56 right now, and that's not one of the longest).

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dengeki Daisy by Kyousuke Motomi

Dengeki Daisy by Kyousuke Motomi is one of my absolute favorite shoujo manga. Honestly, it's probably the series that brought me back to reading shoujo manga. Dengeki translates to "electric shock," which likely refers to the fact that the series is fairly tech involved.

When Teru Kurebayashi's brother died she was left with a cell phone with the text-address of someone using the handle DAISY. She talks to DAISY every day via texting and relies on his kindness to help her through her struggles-- from school and mourning her brother. She is bullied often at school and one day when she breaks a window on accident she finds herself in the servitude of the irritable school janitor-- Kurosaki. Throughout the series Teru develops friendships with classmates, the janitor, and others and begins to unfurl the mysteries that surround her late brother and the secret identity of DAISY.

Teru is an extremely likable character. She is an ordinary girl, though a bit of a space-case (let's be honest-- who isn't). She is independent and positive. Unlike some shoujo manga protagonists her focus isn't finding love or school drama. After her brother's death she is sought by hackers to find some piece of data he may have had. They are convinced that she has it, and DAISY always comes to her rescue. Teru learns to become strong because she wants to make her brother-- and DAISY-- proud, and her friends and allies help her along the way, letting her discover more about her brother than she had ever known before.

Dengeki Daisy is full of action and interesting characters. Each volume is enjoyable and new-- never predictable or filler. For girls reading graphic novels about girls that isn't just about romance is sometimes a struggle, but Dengeki Daisy manages to have action and a quality plot AND still include aspects of romance and friendships to make it a shoujo manga.

This is an ongoing series with 10 volumes released in the US right now.