Review : Claymore.

In a fantasy world where your neighbor could be a flesh eating monster in disguise, mankinds only hope of survival lies in beautiful half human, half monster girls dubbed claymores after the two handed swords they wield. On the flip side not everything is so great about being a claymore as they have to forever battle with the monster within, least they lose their human self and become a monster themselves.

The story revolves around a claymore named Claire and a human boy named Raki both who have had their entire family killed by monsters. After a series of events Raki ends up traveling with Claire. He tends to provide the readers voice throughout the narrative, for example, being shocked at the strange and terrible things Claire is forced to do. Raki's company makes Claire reveal more of her human side, his presence undoubtedly helping in her struggle to remain human.

The art is consistent, but the style seems a little dated and character designs are kind of lackluster. The layout is well set out, making the dialogue, story and action easy to follow. Claymore does feature quite a bit of violence and was probably aimed at older teens, but besides being in comic form, it's also fantasy violence, anyone thirteen or older would not be phased from it.

With the final chapter not really leading onto anything else, it's hard to tell where exactly where the story of Claymore is going. It's made apparent that Claire goes from village to village clearing out the monsters. The story is a bit weak in that regard, at least in this volume, there is no real conveyance of any greater goal to follow on through to the next volume.

Review : 12 Days.

Ever wondered what an art-house romance story would be like as a manga? 12 days by June Kim is just that. Not really depressing, not really bursting with action, yet it's still quite interesting in a melancholic way, which probably adds to the realistic nature of it's narrative.

A young woman named Noah dies in a car accident on the way back from her honey-moon, however, 12 days is not really her story, it is the story of her lesbian lover Jackie and her brother Nick, as they come together to try to deal with the grief and loss of a loved one. They go about this in a rather interesting way, by drinking Noah's cremated ashes over 12 days, mixed in with wine, smoothies and other assorted beverages. Together they reminisce about Noah, in particular, slowly uncovering Jackie's past with her. There's also a few nice touches of comedy strategically placed through out the narrative, giving you a break from the melancholic vibe.

The art of 12 days is nice, clear and vivid. Sometimes the characters say little, leaving the pictures to do the talking. The characters are drawn on a more realistic side to most manga, which adds nicely to the books verisimilitude . The only real reason the book has a +16 age rating is it's themes, realistically someone 13+ could enjoy this, but it's clearly been crafted for an older audience. Being a Korean made manga, it's also written in the english format, which makes it more reader friendly to beginners of the graphic novel medium than their Japanese counterparts.

12 days is a nice, simple, interesting story of two people working their way through the loss of a loved one. If your looking for a one volume drama/romance graphic novel to sink your teeth into, look no further.

Review : Air Gear.

Imagine zooming along the city skyline, jumping off roofs and grinding along power lines at exhilarating speeds before bursting out into the clear blue open sky. All you need is a pair of air treks, motorized two wheeled roller blades. Welcome to the world of Air Gear.

The story focuses around Ikki, a 15 year old high school student, who is first introduced whilst piledriving someone in a brawl. Followed by a proclaimation about how great he is, some of the others present are not too impressed with his attitude and call in an air trek gang named The Skull Saders to deal with him. After being smashed to a pulp by said gang. Ikki slowly enters the world of air treks along with the help of his harem-like makeshift family, who have been a secretive pro air trek group all along without him knowing. It's not too long before Ikki gets a hang of things and gets some revenge, but now obsessed with the sensation of flight it seems that it's only the beginning for him in the sport of air treks.

Air Gear is a fast paced manga, with every page containing either humorous antics or stylish action. Ikki delivers most of the comedy himself, but he's just silly enough that he still remains a strong, cool, likable character without becoming annoying. Air Gear has a harem like side to it, with a whole collection of girls hanging around him, like a lot of manga, this leads to some pretty perverted opportunities for him, many of which, he takes. The female characters take a back seat to Ikki in relation to the storyline, but they're still very strong characters none the less. There's Ringo, his childhood friend, whom we are told is the successor to Sleeping Forest, the best air gear team in the world. Ringo seems to have some sort of crush on Ikki, but she's awfully shy about it, unlike the beautiful Simca, another air trek enthusiast who leads Ikki into all sorts of trouble seemingly purposefully.

The art breathes alot of life into the world, with characters drawn at insane energetic angles and the choice of fashion in the character designs above par. There are a lot of sexual themes, both comedic and just plain seedy, so it's probably best to keep this in a fifteen plus category.

Air Gear manages to take possibly the most fruity activity in the world, rollerblading, and turn it into something very straight, stylish and totally kick-ass. It's a great mix of action and comedy and can only leave you wanting for more.

Review : Genshiken.

It's the first year of university for Sasahara, an average Japanese student. In Japan it's common to join a university club, or social circle. But anyway you guessed it, he wants to join an anime club and thus ends up joining Genshiken, the society for the study of modern visual culture. Basically a really long description for a club that does nothing but sit around and watch anime, play games and get into all sort of nerdy situations.

The second primary character is Saki, a beautiful, tall, bright haired woman, who's into fashion and all the normal cliche girly things. She gets stuck with the Genshiken crowd when the guy she likes turns out to be a closet anime-fanboy. Saki is a comedic character, she gets weirded out by a lot of the strange otaku related activities (cos-play, conventions, computer games, etc) and also causes a lot of conflict with Sasahara.

Genshiken is mostly filled with hardcore otakus who get into discussions about which director is better than others and quote from famous animes left, right and center. The general plot of the chapters lies in character relationships and otaku related activities. The best part of the manga lies in the constant referencing of other anime. Regular fans should be able to spot them quite easily, but if your not too knowledgeable about anime it's probably best to skip this novel, as you'll either miss or not understand nearly all the jokes.

The art of Genshiken is clean, everything is in the normal anime style, nothing strange or new. It is based on people going through university and thus would probably be best enjoyed by a 16+ audience. There's no graphical reason why, it has more to do with some of the themes covered in particular chapters of the book, including hentai video games.

Genshiken is a great graphic novel for manga/anime fans, unfortunately, if your not one of them, this is not a good place to start. The chapters are written in the short-episodic format, each have their own mini-plots and there is really no overall story, but it still remains interesting and funny enough to read on.

Review : Death Note.

What would you do if you were offered the power to kill anyone? Would you take it? Would you use it? What if you could make the world a better place, reduce crime and punish the wicked, could you bare the burden?

Death note is the name of the novel and is also the name of it's plot device, a shinigami (soul reapers) notebook. All you have to do is write a name in a notebook, envision the persons face in your mind and write a cause of death and BAM, they're dead.

Light Yagami, an grade A student is bored out of his mind and sick of the way justice is handled in the world. Light stumbles upon the death note by chance, on the grass outside his school. At first he believes it's a hoax, like anyone would, but after testing it on a criminal holding kids hostage, he confirms it's legality.

A few days later Rukk, a winged dirty looking shinigami confronts Light and explains the rules of the death note. Basically Rukk who is visible only to him intends to follow Light around watching what happens purely because he's bored. Light plans to force his sense of justice on the masses, killing the wicked and sending a message out that if you sin, you will be judged.

Unfortunately for Light, it does not take too long for L, world's greatest detective to get hot on the trail. L also remains anonymous to all, making it impossible to simply kill him with the note. L doesn't agree with Light's version of justice and sees him as nothing more than a murderer.

The art is dark and everything remains in proportion, although the theme and plot of Death Note is quite sinister, it's not very violent visually. Once again, a 13+ year old could read it, but to really enjoy and understand it's themes/messages about justice, being slightly older would be preferable.

Death Note is a great detective/crime story, with an anti-hero protagonist, but is Light really bad? I guess it's up to you and your sense of justice, should one person really judge us all by their standards?

Review : Eureka Seven.

Eureka Seven is an original sci-fi story set in an alternative world, where strange coral formations bulge from the ground and invisible trapar waves that people can 'ride' with strange looking aerial-surfboards fill the air. Sky surfing looks like a ton of fun.

The plot of Eureka Seven is based around that of a thirteen year old mechanic apprentice named Renton and that of a mysterious young girl named Eureka who falls out of the sky (literally) quite early on in the story in an LFO (sky surfing giant robot ). Renton immediately falls head over heals for Eureka and ends up joining her resistance group called Gekko State. Only then to find out she has three kids... It's not really made clear what it is they're resisting or why the military is after them, but there's a lot of action, giant robot fights and laughs along the way.

Eureka Seven has a large cast of characters, the main character obviously being Renton a messy brown haired kid who doesn't know when to stop. Then there is Gekko State, which includes Holland, the swish dressing know-it-all captain. His girlfriend (?) Talho, the pilot of their ship. Eureka and her kids as well as a bunch of other minor characters who have their comical moments. Eureka seveN also characterizes a few antagonists, A young military officer and a strange long haired man who is foreshadowed at the end of the volume.

The art is great, everything is in proportion, the action sequences are well thought out and the character designs are all quite stylish. It's also nice that we get the colour introduction pages in the English copy, where as normally they tend to print them in black and white for us. Violence is kept to a minimum and most of the fighting is done by giant sky surfing robots. Even though the main character is 13, the story and themes are interesting enough that anyone of any age would be able to appreciate it.

Eureka Seven is a unique enjoyable story, full of action, comedy and interesting characterization. Even if your sceptical of giant sky surfing robots, I'd still suggest giving this a try.

Review : RedRum 327.

A group of college students go away to spend a weekend in a expensive remote villa. Things start going wrong, people start disappearing or worse... dying. This doesn't sound too out of the ordinary for a Hollywood style horror film, but RedRum still manages to deliver a unique experience.

RedRum's plot is basically that seven rich college students, all with successful parents, go on a retreat to a remote villa. There's all the stereotypical love triangles, romance and angst that goes along with these style of stories. Basically things start turning sour and people end up biting the dust. The difference between RedRum and your B-grade horror movies really lies in the fact that it's not an outside force doing the killing, infact it's made quite clear who's doing it from the start. The mystery lies in the why?

The characters in RedRum are all quite believable, if not once again a little stereotypical. There's the 'nice guy', the 'not-so-nice guy', the 'quiet guy', the 'cheerful girl', the 'not-so-cheerful girl' and so on. The characters seem to stay true to their personality placement. A long haired girl named Gahui seems to be the primary protagonist, she's nice to everyone and has some messed up flashbacks occasionally. The quiet glasses wearing Gihu seems to be another primary character, with some mention of an unexplained conflict involving him near the start.

The art in RedRum is actually above that of what you'd expect in a normal manga (or manwha), everything is drawn cleanly and proportionately in the normal style. The great use of shading helps it stand out and makes its art somewhat above average. There is only a small amount of violence and blood, so it's probably ok for anyone 13 or older, but it does have quite dark themes and the characters are rather old, someone 15+ would probably enjoy it more.

RedRum is an older teenage drama-horror-murder story which focus's more on why people are being killed than who is killing them. It's not the most original plot, but it's art is A+ and it's still an interesting read.

Review : Mail.

Being able to see dead people looked like it was pretty tough for that poor kid in the sixth sense, but in MAIL, the real issue is when the dead people see you, seeing them.

MAIL is about detective Reiji Akiba, a somewhat eccentric private eye, he has the signature waistcoat and tie of anyone who's in the 'bizz'. What makes him different from your average detective is what it is, exactly, that he investigates. Reiji tracks down wayward and harmful spirits, which he then exorcises with the help of his sanctified handgun, saving lives and burying the dead.

The graphic novel is in the story-per-chapter format. Each one introduces us to a new group of characters who find themselves in the midst of an urban myth or somewhat gruesome problem. All the plots and urban myths are very original and unique. The stories manages to grip you enough that you feel genuinely scared, if not for yourself, then for the victims in the story. The only real downside is that each really ends the same, with Reiji showing up and taking the ghost down. Except for a few of the stories, which gives us a view of Reiji's past.

This manga is by the same artist as the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. And thus has the same art style. Mail was however drawn at a later date and thus Yamazaki's art is a lot more consistent and clean throughout the entire volume than it was in the first volume of Kurosagi.
The plots and themes themselves are obviously for more mature readers, but besides a very small amount of partial nudity, I don't see any reason why a slightly more mature manga reader would enjoy it any less.

MAIL is a great read, if you like the horror-mystery genre, then this book is certainly for you. If you've never read a horror manga before this would be a great title to start with. It's a real pity there's only three volumes, as it's probably one of the best serious seinen (mature reader) titles available to an english reader, as typically they don't make it out of Japan.

Review : Hellsing.

This is one of those few and peculiar stories where the main character is in fact an anti-hero. Alucard is the Hellsing organizations pet vampire. An organization whos sole mission is to deal with other vampires, monsters and 'freaks'. Think they are kind of hypocritical for having a vampire to kill other vampires? The catholic church thinks so too and has a few things to 'say' to Alucard and Hellsing.

Volume one introduces us to Serras Victora, a blonde, large breasted somewhat ditzy police officer who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Alucard ends up granting her eternal life and she joins the Hellsing organization. A side story of the novel is Serras coming to terms with her vampirism, despite her appearance, she isn't over-feminized and remains her own character, unlike a lot of girl characters in manga. There is no fan-service, the story is too dark and serious for that.

The manga contains a good mix of seriousness and comedy, Serras usually providing the later, Alucard is a somewhat serious main character, but it's clear from the beginning that his state of mind is inhuman, as it should be. Alucard is quite insane, as you can imagine someone would be if they never died. He's just looking for some fun, a good fight and a lot of carnage along the way. He's not to be confused with 'A good vampire', he isn't there to save humans, he's there to get rid of the lowly 'scum' giving vampires a bad name.

The art starts off not being exactly great, but it has it's own style and the mangaka seems to quickly get better at it, by the end of the book it's all drawn quite well. Some of the full page cells look amazing. It's a very 'dark' book as you can imagine, it's refreshing to see London as a location as well, rather than Japan again.

Hellsing is one of the best vampire stories ever, it's dark, has alot of action, a crazy anti-hero and an insane anti-villain. The first volume was great and I recommend any male or female of around 15+ to read it.

Review : Mushishi

Mushishi is a collection of original Grimm style fairy tales that takes place in a pre-feudal Japan. Each chapter is presented in a very well constructed short story form, with only two similarities carrying through the series of different stories.

The first is a strange form of life referred to as Mushi. Life forms that don't really exist within our reality, but at the same time do. Those sensitive to the mushi are the only ones able to see them and thus a lot of people and children with this sensitivity are thought to be crazy. Mushi take a variety of different forms such as amoebas, single celled organisms, they can resemble human beings and some are even great creatures the size of mountains.

Mushi are not actually evil, they're not really sentient enough. Instead they're just like any animal or creature, doing what they can to get by. In doing so however they can cause dramatic, strange and often horrific incidents when they come into contact with human

The second connection between the stories is the protagonist Ginko, a one eyed, white haired mushishi. Basically a profession like a doctor, but for mushi related problems and conditions. Ginko is a mushi magnet, why isn't really clear, but it forces him to constantly travel the countryside, never stopping for too long. So he wanders from town to town, offering his services and helping victims of the mushi in every way he can.

Ginko is a somewhat mysterious character, he's very knowledgeable and seems to nearly always have some knowledge about what's going on. The most likable characteristic about him is just how far he goes to help those plagued by the troubles of the mushi, going to great lengths and putting his life on the line to help and save them. Future volumes will hopefully reveal more of Ginko's past and character.

These stories are obviously not aimed at younger children, having some quite strong horror themes, just like an original Grimm's fairy tail. A young teenager to an adult would appreciate the stories far more. 'A light behind the eyelid' is the story that won the manga award that is proudly displayed on the front of the cover. It's about a young girl who's eyes have been infected with mushi, and any sort of light, even with her eyes closed, causes her pain. How will Ginko be able to cure her? That's the other nice thing about this manga, the endings are never predictable, things rarely end with a "and they lived happily ever after".

Yuki has obviously mastered the art of short stories and Mushishi is an example of this art at it's pinnacle. A great read for anyone that enjoys a good story, not just manga lovers or teenagers.