1 of 1 episodes seen
Dead Girls takes place years after the end of the original series. Our four heroines are, naturally, still alive and without memories of the first seventeen years of their lives. Not knowing who they were or why they can never die, they've stuck together, traveling to new places every few years so nobody realizes how odd they are, and have begun working as bounty hunters (known as, appropriately, the dead girls) by night. When an opportunity for learning about their past arises, they take it… and that's about it. I won't spoil the ending, but it's a generic one that tells us (and the girls) little and fails to even infuse meaning into our state of uncertainty. While it's nice to know what happened to them, and the choice to set the OVA far into the future rather than immediately after the series was an interesting one, there's a massive amount of potential lost and the OVA ends up feeling completely pointless.
An opportunity for character development is similarly lost with all four of the girls. Naturally, after hundreds of years, they've changed dramatically, and yet we never get a peek into how and why they've changed. Its alluded to that they choose to take on different traits as the years go on and they move to new places, cutting off ties from both old peers and old personalities, and that could in and of itself make a great OVA if it were used to explore their characters, their deepest needs and desires, or even the nature of personality as an overall concept. But Dead Girls doesn't do that, opting to simply treat everything as normal and expecting the viewer to nod along. Disappointing, to say the least.
At the very least, this OVA has the same art and musical style of the original series. The singing is back, although (at least in the English dub) the fact that the songwriting and singing are weak is amusingly lampshaded by characters. Art and animation are very nice, unique without being overly bizarre, which fits the show nicely. However, I would have enjoyed seeing more thought put into the physical setting, however; it has a generic futuristic look without any real "oh cool!" moments that really aren't that hard to add when making up technology (or even fashion) for the future. The way it looks and sounds don't particularly make up for the story and characterization, though; it looks and sounds nice, but not nice enough to distract you from that.
Red Garden: Dead Girls is a disappointment that does little for the plot or characters of the original series, but at least it still looks nice. Recommended for completionists who saw the TV series only. read more
37 of 16 chapters read
This is the only shoujo manga series I can think of with a wild west setting, so if nothing else that makes for an interesting change of pace. Unfortunately, there’s not much to write home about when it comes to the plot: it’s an uninspired tale of bad guys doing bad things and the good guys fighting against them. I’m admittedly biassed against series that have a lot of action/fight scenes and Miriam is one such manga, but Hikawa does very little to add any sort of excitement, suspense, or even uniqueness to the storyline, so it’s overall very disappointing. There’s also an element of romance, which does help to give the story a softer, more emotional side; it’s not horribly unique either, but it’s a nice break from horseback riding and guns.
I did, however, really enjoy Miriam as a heroine. While she, too, has a lot of typical traits — spunky, independent, overly enthusiastic — she’s a lot of fun to follow due to being honestly charming and fun. This isn’t a manga to read for deep characterization, but it’s perfect for readers who just like to smile along with a fun and funny lead character. The supporting cast is similarly not very complex, but in general, there’s enough consistent and enjoyable characterization to make it strong enough.
All in all, it’s an enjoyable but not particularly noteworthy manga that I’d recommend for shoujo fans who also have an interest in action-packed wild west stories, and perhaps oldschool manga readers who are desperate for more translated series to read. (Fans of late 80s/early 90s shoujo in particular will surely be pleased by the very much period art and paneling style.) read more
4 of 4 chapters read
Seeing as it's from the 1950s, the art style of this manga is quite different from what the modern reader is used to. The influential shoujo artist Makoto Takahashi's style is in full bloom here: character designs are all soft curves and wide eyes. Every detail of page of this series oozes a unique beauty, one full of flowers and careful poses and perfect backgrounds; I could stare at it forever. Perhaps thanks to the fact that artists such as Osamu Tezuka had not yet fully made their mark on manga when The Rows of Cherry Trees was written, page layouts don't have the flow that I expect from manga. The best way to describe it would be calling every individual panel a little masterpiece all on its own -- lovely, but sometimes alienating each image from the next. I would not want every manga series to look like this one, but considering it's the only English-translated manga of its time, it's an excellent look into the trends of the past and warrants a read just for that.
The typical manga reader is probably more interested in excitement and suspense, in new and unique ideas and characters. That manga reader probably won't have much to gain from The Rows of Cherry Trees; rather, it will seem quaint and silly, an old-fashioned story that later manga series told in a much better fashion. However, I am not that sort of reader, and if you aren't, either, this is a wonderful read. It's a rare look into very early shoujo (besides Princess Knight, it's the earliest shoujo title that has been translated into English) and the unique elegance that it had. Gorgeous and touching in its own way, The Rows of Cherry Trees is a different sort of masterpiece. read more
8 of 8 chapters read
While it is, in fact, a boy's love classic, The Heart of Thomas has very little in common with almost any other BL title out there. Set in a 20th century German boarding school, it begins with the arrival of Eric, a sweet-faced yet strong-willed transfer student. He quickly discovers that he's almost identical in appearance to Thomas, a boy who has recently died, much to the dismay and confusion of the cold prefect Julusmole. The story is irremediably linked to the characters: most of the conflict is internal, as these boys are overwhelmed and confused by both the people around them and their own tumultuous emotions. It's a tale of romance, injury, death, family, and friendship, to be sure, but it's also a tale of what it means to love, to hurt, and to forgive. It may be a boy's love series, but there is no sex and very little in the way of physical affection. Instead, it shows us that love isn't about kissing or dating; love just is.
The Heart of Thomas is one of the most emotionally intense manga I have ever encountered. It takes place in a world that is a distinct, existing part of our history as human beings, but at the same time it's so beautiful, so fragile that we know it's merely a fantasy. In this world, nothing matters more than people discovering themselves, and discovering each other. In a way, it's just like growing up, as the characters stumble through learning to think and care and feel. That is where this fantasy and our own reality meet, and where we realize that although we've never hurled ourselves off of a bridge to show our love, we have all felt the things that these characters have felt.
Moto Hagio tells this story with her usual gorgeous art. While the first chapter or two features somewhat dull character designs, things improve very quickly, and by a third of the way into the series, everything has gone from average to gorgeous. Characters are drawn in the doe-eyed, androgynous, and anorexic style that was so prevalent in shoujo of the 70s, but Hagio makes the style her own. Each page is superb, with an endless variety of panel layouts used and gorgeous and dynamic angles. It's distinctly shoujo -- full of flowers and sparkles -- without being unbearably girly; Hagio clearly knew how to set limits for herself. Don't let the promise of classic shoujo drawings cause you to pass The Heart of Thomas up: it's a great choice for people who are unfamiliar with this particular niche, as the art is both clearly 70s and completely timeless.
Every element blends together seamlessly to create something close to perfection. The Heart of Thomas is a masterpiece not only of early boy's love but of all manga, thanks to the way it so wonderfully portrays emotions, pain, and most importantly, a love that transcends labels. read more
1 of 1 episodes seen
Kaze to Ki no Uta is an epic boys' love tragedy oftentimes labeled as the first boy's love manga -- this is untrue, although KazeKi's mangaka also wrote the real first BL manga, a oneshot called "In the Sunroom". It was, however, the first to contain explicit sexual content, including rape, pedophilia, and incest (oftentimes all at once), although all of this is treated with care in the manga and doesn't come up all that much in the manga. But historical significance aside, this is the story of one Serge Battour, the kind and talented son of a French viscount and a gypsy prostitute, and one Gilbert Cocteau, a gorgeous boy selling his body for reasons unknown. The anime covers several volume of the manga, starting when Serge and Gilbert become roommates at the elite boarding school Lacombrade Academy and following them as they initially clash and slowly begin to understand each other. Their problems are many -- Serge, due to his mixed-race heritage, is bullied by his classmates; Gilbert's promiscuity often gets him into dangerous situations; while Serge intends to make friends with Gilbert, Gilbert refuses... it's a story with all the beginnings of an amazing romantic tragedy, and while the anime doesn't come close to finishing the story, it's a great overview of the full tale.
But the biggest draw of Kaze to Ki no Uta is not its significance or plot, but its characters. There's a delicious variety of personalities, including not only the leads but the supporting cast. Serge and Gilbert have an amazing dynamic all throughout the story; Serge is absolutely adorable and easy to cheer for from beginning to end, and Gilbert's remarkable combination of frigid and manipulative is a powerful contrast. While side characters don't have time to get their chances to shine, even their minimally-developed personalities are great fun -- the religious rule-bearer Karl, the playfully rebellious Pascal, the strong-willed and elegant Rosemarine... KazeKi has a very likable supporting cast.
While the style of this OVA doesn't come close to the beauty of the manga's art and atmosphere, it's quite a good representation. The music is more or less unobtrusive, but beautiful when one takes the time to listen to it. It's a very classic style, full of piano, violin, and the like; elegant and pretty and very much appropriate to the content of the anime. While mangaka Keiko Takemiya's soft and elegant art style has been greatly simplified (very much for the worse) in order to be animated, character designs are as a whole faithful to the original. Effeminate boys run rampant and every character, from main to background, is always on-model. The background art is similarly detailed and attractive, using the historic setting to further create a distinct atmosphere.
The Kaze to Ki no Uta OVA is a fantastic introduction to an even more fantastic manga; everybody I know that has watched it has gone on to read the manga and become a fan. Even this small bit of the story is intriguing, emotional, and beautiful and downright lovely to watch. While this title may not often catch the eye of anyone except boy's love fans looking through the history of the genre, the fact is that not only is Kaze to Ki no Uta -- manga and anime -- one of the greatest boy's love titles out there but one of the greatest shoujo titles and tragic manga. Those who can't stand their anime to be slow, character-driven, and dramatic should look elsewhere, but for fans of gorgeously painful romances, deep shoujo, and unique and significant anime, Kaze to Ki no Uta is the perfect series. Honestly, the only shortcoming of the anime is it's length. read more
9 of 39 episodes seen
As the series that took over Sailor Moon's timeslot when it first aired, Cutey Honey Flash is not the ecchi/action sort of magical girl series you'd expect from the franchise, instead following a more typical formula. It takes place in high school, it's totally family-friendly, and It's very episodic. In every episode, Honey and her friends start out doing something typical of teen girls (or at least what little girls wish that their teenage years would be like). Then (rather underdeveloped) evil strikes, and Honey has to transform and fight evil. There's an underlying plot, of course -- in this one, Honey is trying to rescue her missing father -- and a mysterious yet helpful man (sound familiar?). It's far from unpleasant, but it's very much your typical magical girl plot and atmosphere. Rather underwhelming, really, and while I understand that the intention was to give Sailor Moon a spiritual successor, Cutey Honey Flash doesn't bring anything new to the table to make it stand out from Sailor Moon and other similar series.
Still, Cutey Honey Flash retains a decent amount of the charm in other versions. While Honey is meeker in this version, she's still a strong character, both in the sense of being well-characterized and the sense of kicking a lot of butt. A version of the classic theme song is used as the opening, along with Honey's costume being a variation of the original. Honey still has her transforming abilities, too; she solves problems brought by the villains by transforming into different types of people. It can indeed fun to watch the traditional components of the original Cutey Honey mixed with your standard magical girl tropes, and I'm glad that even in a different genre, Cutey Honey Flash still has some of what makes other versions great.
Full disclosure: I only understand English, and this review is for those who are in the same boat as me and wondering if they should try out this series anyway. Cutey Honey Flash has only been fansubbed up to the ninth episode, with little sign of more coming up. It may become a very different show in the next thirty episodes, but for now they aren't available. For now, it's a solid but not fabulous watch for magical girl fans who don't mind seeing every 90s trope in the book, and Cutey Honey fans who also enjoy more traditional shoujo. read more
7 of 7 chapters read
Our heroes are Mingo, a comic artist, and Jerry, a musician, and they have just broken up. Told in what you probably know as a 4koma style, X Diary follows their daily life as they struggle with this decision and where to go from there. I’ve never been in such a situation, but nonetheless could relate to the mood of the story – if nothing else, X Diary captures the pace of a busy but dull life quite well. Unfortunately, while that means you will nod along with the story, there’s also very little else going for it. Nothing really happens, not even the gimmicky events like going to the beach that other slices of life boast, so it gets dull quickly.
A similar thing could be said of X Diary’s characters. A good series has characters that one can relate to but are also entertaining; X Diary’s cast only embodies the first of those qualities, as they are very believable in an uninspired way. Unfortunately, the art of the series does very little to help readers enjoy characters: it’s more or less scribbles. The clean scribbles of an artist, but scribbles nonetheless. If this were a friend’s doodles about her past relationship, I would be impressed, but this is a published work, something that’s supposed to tell the readers something solid.
Despite its shortcomings, X Diary is a pretty enjoyable manhwa. The upside to its slow, uneventful story, art, and characters is that nothing gets in the way of it being an ultimately believable work. Still, if art were to always imitate life in this way, I think I’d get bored quickly; X Diary is an interesting quick read if you want something a little bit different and not the least bit flashy, but little else. read more
2 of 2 episodes seen
Still, it would be a lie to say that this OVA has many memorable qualities. While the plot is more detailed than that of the game, especially when delving into character motivations and reactions, in the end it’s still quite a simplistic story of a prince versus his kingdom’s enemies. Character development is even more minimal, but that’s not surprising considering how many characters are introduced in a short time. In a lot of respects, the OVA actually seems to fail at its purpose; you’re likely to walk away from this knowing very little more about the game than you already did. Still, this little bit of knowledge is an improvement over the no knowledge that comes from playing the game by itself, so players of both the original and the remake are advised to give this a watch. read more
1 of 5 chapters read
That said, Three Wishes really didn’t meet any of my preconceptions for better or for worse. Quite frankly, it’s no more and no less than an average romance novel, illustrated by a manga artist. The story – girl meets a genie who wants to give her wishes but ends up falling in love with her – is ridiculously predictable but quite bearable. Shoujo romance readers will be rolling their eyes no more often than they usually do during other short, shallow shoujo titles. However, this average story is paired with fairly mediocre characters which are neither particularly interesting nor relateable, so as a whole it’s a rather poor little tale.
There’s one thing that stands out about Three Wishes, and that is the art. It was illustrated by Matsuri Akino, a rather prolific mangaka best known for supernatural mystery and horror titles such as Pet Shop of Horrors. The thought of her doing cheesy romance is quite frankly hilarious, especially since she chose to use her usual style with a few more flowers and bubbles in the background. Considering how different her art is from a typical shoujo style, it’s surprising how well this turned out. It looks a little bit out of place among hearts and not blood, but it still retains its unique supernatural feel and is easily the best part of this title.
So harlequin romance manga wasn’t as horrible as I expected. That said, it’s still nothing special in terms of story or characterization, so I’d only recommend picking up a harlequin title if you’re a fan of the mangaka that illustrated it. read more
35 of 35 episodes seen
Nurse Angel Ririka SOS stars, a ten-year-old girl who finds out she has the ability to transform into the legendary nurse angel and fight evil. She runs into trouble with villains, she makes new allies and friends, and she has to live her normal life in the meantime. In other words, the series has the most utterly normal magical girl plot possible. If you’ve watched Sailor Moon or any of the myriad of series that it inspired, you know what’s going to happen in Nurse Angel Rirka SOS. Even the surprising mood change near the end, while effective, is not uncommon the genre. Granted, if you’re a magical girl fan that may be what you want, but keep in mind that nothing in the plot will surprise or impress you unless you’re utterly unfamiliar with magical girls.
The production values of the show are solid but forgettable. First off is the music: it’s nice. Really, that’s all that can be said. The opening and closing songs are cute and easy on the ears, but won’t be going on your mp3 player anytime soon. The background music generally goes well with whatever scene it’s playing in, but that’s about it. If music is an important component to your enjoyment of an anime, Nurse Angel Ririka SOS is not necessarily a series you’ll want to seek out.
The art is significantly better, but still fails to reach any real notability. Quite frankly, this series looks exactly like a 90s shoujo anime should through and through. Character designs are generally sweet and pleasant to look at and reflect the character’s personalities fairly well. At the same time, though, they’re rather bland. The series’ animation is nice, however; it’s easy to see that the animators had a decent budget to work with. Another factor in the series’ favor is the full use of cel animation – it has the typical warm, friendly feel that classic anime tend to have.
Characterization is about as interesting as character design, which is not very. You have the sweet little magical girl, her close male friend who drives her nuts, the fluffy little pet, the villain who turns out to have a heart of gold, the mysterious older guy, and the mystical princess who must be saved. While they serve their purposes to further the plot, no character in Nurse Angel Ririka SOS truly stand out as memorable.
While it embodies many of the traditions of 90s magical girls, Nurse Angel Ririka SOS simply doesn’t do enough things differently from other 90s magical girls. If you do enjoy the many troupes of the genre, the series is still one that you’ll enjoy, if only as a way to revisit some classic plotlines and character archetypes. If, however, fighting evil by moonlight is not your thing, Nurse Angel Rirka SOS simply does not have much to offer for you.
Note: Nurse Angel Rirka SOS was fully released on VHS fansubs a while ago, but only episodes 1-21 are currently available as digital fasubs. This reviewer watched 22-35 raw with the assistance of episode summaries. read more