Monday, October 04, 2004

Quick Manga Reviews

Dark Water
by Koji Suzuki & Meimu
Dark Water is a collection of adaptations of short stories by Ringu author Suzuki, all of which involve the theme of water in some capacity. In the interview at the end of the book, Suzuki calims to not be a horror author, but that is clearly the mood that is being aimed for here. Despite Steven Grant's recent assertion that there are no real horror comics, the title story which leads off this collection manages to be quite effective, with its tale of a single mother and her daughter who are haunted by events that took place in their apartment building two years earlier. Meimu does an excellent job with the adaptation, especially with a tension filled chase sequence near the end. The second story, "Island Cuise," manages to be creepy but never really scary; the eght-page "Adrift" seems shallow on first read, but upon re-reading was actually better, imparting a sense of dread and helplessness. Only the final story, "Forest Beneath the Waves," falls flat; while there is one good moment, fails to build any tension, dramatic or otherwise. It's a thin volume by manga standards--just 128 pages--but worth a read if you're looking for something a little creepy for the Halloween season.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Negima! vol. 1
by Ken Akamatsu
As the latest offering from Love Hina creator Akamatsu you should pretty much know what you're going to get with Negima!: lots and lots of fan service. The set-up is almost pure Akamatsu: Negi, a ten-year-old prodigy, has just graduated from a Hogwarts-like magic academy and, because he's rather bad at magic, he's sent to Japan to teach eighth grade English at an all-girls school. Unlikely scenarios ensue, most designed to show off the student body's bodies. All the girls think their diminutive teacher is cute, even when Negi's magic goes haywire when he sneezes and blows off the girls' clothes (at least once every other chapter!) With chapter titles like "Bathhouse Rub" you pretty much know what to expect. It's the sort of thing that could come off as really, well, dirty, but with a pre-sexual protagonist and Akamatsu's light touch, it's more flirtatious and titilating than anything else. While the story is the same sort of thing that we've seen before, Akamatsu's art is much better than earlier efforts, with strong character design and often detailed backgrounds--it's his best work yet. Translators usually go unnoticed if they're doing their job correctly, but I'll mention that the translation for Negima! is by fan-favorite Peter David and his wife Kathleen, and they do a superb job of making the dialogue fun and accessible to an American audience without losing any of the Japanese flavor. If this is the sort of thing you're looking for, you'll really like Negima!
Rating: 3 (of 5)

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