Friday, December 31, 2004

Quick Manga Reviews

Ai Yori Aoshi, vol. 2
by Kou Fumizuki
At the end of the last volume, Aoi's family agreed to let she and Kaoru be together. That would have made a decent end to the love story, but if the series is to continue without being a constant stream of the two young lovers making googly eyes at each other there needs to be some complications. Complication number one arrives in the form of living arrangements: while Aoi & Kaoru can be together, they are not allowed to be together 24/7; Aoi & Miyabi, Aoi's family's assistant, get to live in a spacious American-style house while Kaoru is relegated to sleeping in the small guest quarters out back. The second complication arrives in the form of the photography club at Kaoru's college, particularly two attractive female coeds: Tina, a brash American (raised in Japan); and Taeko, a shy, clumsy and very busty freshman. Both girls end up as boarders in the house, and though there are many typical pratfalls involving accidental groping, Aoi is not the least bit threatened. She should be though, because both of the new girls have tons of personality compared to the boring Aoi, who only seems to care about making Kaoru happy. There's actually the potential for an interesting series here, one in which Aoi's being brought up to be the perfect wife for a boy she barely knows is examined in light of modern society. But we are never privy to Aoi's internal life, and she remains a bland 'dream girl' with no real personality. It's a shame, because Fumizuki's art and storytelling are quite good, even taking into account the numerous scenes of gratuitous nudity. Ai Yori Aoshi stands on the line with the potential for being rather good, yet it keeps shooting itself in the foot with its young male fantasies.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Angelic Layer, vol. 1
by Clamp
Twelve-year-old Misaki has just moved to the Big City, where she discovers Angelic Layer, the game of remote-controlled combat dolls that is all the rage. With the assistance of a strage and somewhat creepy middle-aged scientist-type she purchases an Angel of her own (hatched from an egg) and begins to compete in the miniature battles. While not a completely unique set-up, there are echoes of something different make the story a bit above the typical kids-with-combat-drones story, including some very subtle subtext about creation and godhood (Angel controllers are called 'Deuses'). Unfortunately the art is miserable; the action scenes are impossible to follow, and the people have a tendancy to be suddenly rendered with freakish squid limbs when the artist is too lazy to do proper rendering. I've seen much better art out of Clamp before--this is just bad.
Rating: 2 (of 5)

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