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Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in sailorelysion's LiveJournal:

Thursday, April 20th, 2006
1:19 pm
Title: The Tarot Café [Volume 1] by Sang-sun Park
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Country of Origin: Korea
Reviewer: Denise Chang

Pamela is the owner of the Tarot Café, where she gives readings to those who step through its doors. Her customers aren’t only ordinary humans though – vampires, fairies, and cats are just some of the supernatural beings that ask for her services as well. The first volume of The Tarot Café is made up of separate episodes, each surrounding the story of Pamela’s different customers. Not much information has been given on Pamela or her friend Belus, both of whom are consistent characters throughout the manhwa, but given the nature of the stories and the fact that this is only the first volume, more can be expected forthcoming.

The first episode (“A Wish-fulfilling Cat”) involved a cat in love with his master, the second customer was a vampire troubled by karma (“Eternal Beauty”), the third (“A Fairy”) contained an old fairy with a youthful appearance, and the last episode (“A Heartless Princess, An Alchemist, and A Jester”) was the first part of a story involving a doll-making alchemist. All of the stories, except for “A Fairy”, could be considered self-contained, romantic fantasy tales. They involved love and heartache, and for the most part I enjoyed them very much. “A Fairy” was much more lighthearted in tone, but neither of the characters involved caught my interest or empathy, and so I didn’t like it.

Sang-sun Park’s artwork is very beautiful, gothic, and detailed, so it is very complementary towards the romantic tales of The Tarot Café. Park’s style reminds me very much of Kouyu Shurei (“Alichino”), although her lines are slightly thicker and the faces of her females still retain a typical manhwa shape to them. Korean artwork has many details unique to girls’ manhwa, but among other artists, Sang-sun Park’s style is definitely distinct. Sometimes Park’s characters have rather overdramatic (read: unrealistic) expressions or stiff poses, but for the most part, the artwork is lovely.

I enjoyed the first volume of The Tarot Café very much. If you like gothic artwork and supernatural tales, you definitely should check it out. The Tarot Café is published in the US by Tokyopop and retails for $9.99 per volume.

Rating: B+
Date: 4/25/2005
1:18 pm
Review: Saiyuki [series] by Kazuya Minekura
Title: Saiyuki by Kazuya Minekura
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Country: Japan
Reviewer: Denise Chang

The story of Saiyuki follows a monk and his three youkai [demon] companions on their journey west. Even though Saiyuki is heavily based on the Chinese tale of Journey to the West, prior knowledge isn’t really necessary (I had barely any and made it through alright). Minekura has taken the story and characters of the original, added her own influence, and made them angsty, modern, and cool. I really enjoyed reading this series. The first volume started out kind of mediocre, with episodic chapters probably done to get you acclimated to the characters, but from then on the story really flew and I was hooked! Sanzo (chain smoking, gun-wielding Buddhist monk), Goku (monkey boy with a huge appetite), Hakkai (more like a nagging mother than a demon), and Gojyo’s (womanizing kappa) mission to go west and find out what is causing other youkai to go crazy is what keeps the overall plot together, and therefore a main focus throughout the series. However, a good amount of the story is utilized to reveal the interesting pasts and motivations of the main characters. Many of the characters were very likable, unique, and their personalities and relationships were well-developed. The story is nicely planned and keeps moving, rarely dragging and maintaining interest right up until the last volume. This isn’t to say that the last volume isn’t as good as the others – there’s good focus, pace, and interesting revelations. However, at the end, the party’s original mission hasn’t been fulfilled, and there’s a disappointing amount of loose ends that haven’t been tied. This doesn’t take away from the story as you’re reading it, but by the end you’re definitely left wanting more. The story does continue in Saiyuki Reload, but it has yet to be licensed in the US.

Kazuya Minekura’s art style is very distinct. Her males are very attractive, but her females tend to have the same facial attributes as her males. This is my only problem with her art style; it’s otherwise excellent. Minekura’s ability to draw action sequences as well as emotional drama is very good, and the art enhances the feeling that ‘whoa, this is a cool series’. The artwork is definitely a highlight of Saiyuki, accompanying its great storyline.

In comparison to the original Japanese printings by G Fantasy and Zero Sum, Tokyopop’s version is subpar. G Fantasy’s version is larger, higher quality, and is actually worth the $10 - $13 it typically costs. If you can find translations, I would recommend picking up the original Japanese rather than the American printing. However, if you can’t, I guess something is better than nothing. The original Saiyuki series [Saiyuki Reload is the sequel and Saiyuki Gaiden is the prequel] finishes up at 9 volumes, 7 of which are currently available in the US for $9.99 each.

Grade: A-
Date: 03/09/05

[note: by the time this review has been posted, all of Saiyuki has been published in the US]
1:17 pm
Review: RG Veda [series] by CLAMP
Title: RG Veda by CLAMP
Genre: Drama
Country of Origin: Japan
Reviewer: Denise Chang

300 years ago, Taishaku-ten overthrew the Emperor of Heaven and began his dark reign. Six stars come together as prophesized and become that which destroys the Heavens and ends Taishaku-ten’s rule. The plot of RG Veda is a heady one, taking on aspects of Hindu mythology and creating a plot filled with drama and angst. The manga starts off fairly well, explaining the background of the plot and starting one of our main characters, Yasha-ou, quickly on his journey. Yasha-ou must gather the six stars which will overturn Heaven. While and when they assemble, we see the effects on Gods and their clans due to what happened 300 years ago. The different characters we encounter, major and minor, are all unique, although some have much more thought put into them than do others. Some of their individual stories are very interesting, and most of them tragic. There is very little comedy, and the majority of RG Veda is filled with tragedy. When there is any lightheartedness, it’s usually done to pave way the way for an even more dramatic event. Some of the drama was a little too drawn out, to the point where you didn’t care what was going to happen as long as it finally happened already! Aside from these instances, though, the pacing is fairly well done and creates an appropriate impact. The manga doesn’t last longer than it should, and it doesn’t end without properly explaining key issues. The last few volumes of the series are certainly the most engaging, and CLAMP shows that they aren’t afraid to pull off some showstoppers you wouldn’t have thought them to.

The artwork of RG Veda is lovely and highly detailed. The lines are thicker than I personally like, but it is nevertheless beautiful and distinctly classic CLAMP. One problem a reader might have is that, despite RG Veda being an essentially shoujo manga, there are many battle scenes and people shown being killed. I don’t think what is drawn is enough to make you sick to your stomach, but if you are very easily disturbed by blood in print, it’s something to take into account before you start reading.

Besides the last few exciting volumes, RG Veda doesn’t have too much reread value. It is, however, definitely worth reading at least once. If you’re a CLAMP fan, RG Veda is considered one of the group’s classic titles, and it’s also a great example of the drama genre. If you’re looking for a lot of soap opera-ish action, there’s plenty there. Overall, RG Veda is a good manga.

There are 10 volumes of RG Veda, and in Japan they are printed in a larger size than most manga and cost around $7-9. There is also a bunko version, which condenses the series into 7 volumes (each volume containing more pages than the original printing) and costs slightly more. Tokyopop has the license to RG Veda in the US, and Volume 1 is set to release April 12th of this year for $9.99.

Rating: B

[Note: by the time this review has been posted, Tokyopop has already released RG Veda in the US]
1:14 pm
Review: Ouran Koukou Host Club [Volume 1] by Hatori Bisuke
Title: Ouran Koukou Host Club [Volume 1] by Hatori Bisuke
Genre: comedy, romance
Country of Origin: Japan
Reviewer: Denise Chang

Fujioka Haruhi is a poor student with a scholarship to a rich school. Haruhi one day stumbles into the school’s host club [a club in which handsome men cater to women]. In her haste to get away, she breaks an expensive vase and ends up in debt! To repay it, she becomes the newest member of the Ouran Host Club. Ouran Koukou starts out fast paced, but past the first chapter there isn’t a great deal of development in the overall plot. The pace, however, remains fairly rushed, with little in-depth character development. We learn a little bit about Haruhi’s talents and personality, but not very much past the stereotypes each club member shows themselves as [ie the strong silent guy, the girly childish guy, the intelligent mature guy, etc]. The story past the first chapter becomes very episodic, but entertaining enough. The charms of each host club member are humorous, especially when you realize that, although they’re highly exaggerated caricatures, women really go for that stuff! Most of the jokes made involve the host club members’ personalities or the difference in wealth between Haruhi and the rest of the school. While they’re pretty funny for the most part, the one-track humor can become tiresome after a while. The first volume was good but didn’t really capture my attention, so hopefully the second volume will have more to offer.

The artwork of Ouran Koukou is fairly unique, but it’s not a style that I particularly like. The lines are very wispy, and, customary to shoujo manga, lots of screentone is used. The screentone is excessively used in this case to give the manga a feeling of extravagance, enhancing the “host club” plot, but mostly the panels just end up feeling rather cluttered. The people are drawn quite angular, skinny and lanky, and their heads seem somewhat misshapen upon closer inspection. Haruhi is at first mistaken as a boy by the other members of the host club, but if not for their hair, any of the characters could probably be mistaken for the opposite sex. It doesn’t really detract from the story, but the characters look so basically similar that when judging aesthetically, it’s somewhat irritating that all the people look pretty much alike.

In the end, Ouran Koukou Host Club is entertaining, but it’s not the best series out there. Although the basic plot starts out well enough, nothing very advancing occurs in the first volume. Ouran Koukou is your standard shoujo with pretty boys and a fairly likeable heroine, and it’s a funny-enough comedy. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s an easy read. Unfortunately, there are tons of series out there of the same caliber.

Although Ouran Koukou is licensed in the US by Viz, it has yet to be released. In Japan it is published by Hakusensha, and each volume sells for about $5 (Y390). It also runs in monthly installments in LaLa magazine.

Rating: B-
Date: 4/1/05

[note: by the time this review has been released, Viz has alreayd released Ouran Koukou Host Club in the US]
Thursday, March 2nd, 2006
12:32 am
Review - manga - Houshin Engi [Vol 1] by Ryuu Fujisaki
Title: Houshin Engi [Volume 1] by Ryuu Fujisaki
Genre: Action, Adventure
Country of Origin: Japan
Reviewer: Denise Chang

More than 3000 years ago in China, the evil sennin Dakki seduced and corrupted the Emperor with her beauty and powers. The heavens decided to send the sennin Taikoubou down to Earth to eliminate Dakki and her 365 sennin minions. This is all explained right away in Houshin Engi, setting up the mission that Taikoubou must undergo. Along with being an adventure and action story, Houshin Engi is also fairly funny. Comedy isn’t the focus, but there are quite a few humorous bits thrown in. The story’s pace seems fairly fast; within the first volume Taikoubou already faces several opponents and is well on his way in his journey. In fact, by chapter five he has already met Dakki, the story’s main opponent, face to face! It may seem a little too fast paced, until you realize that there are 23 volumes total to Houshin Engi. In actuality, the story flows fairly well from event to event, but there seem to be more fights than there is plot. Along with the beginning of his journey, we see some of Taikoubou’s personality and values, but not much further than that. There is still much of the series to go though, so character development should be forthcoming.

Ryuu Fujisaki’s artwork is very distinct. It’s very angular and makes lots of use of lines to convey action. The first 30 pages or so were done in color (in the first magazine run), but unfortunately the transfer of color to black and white in the collected volume form is a detriment, making pages seem more cluttered than they actually are. However, past these, the pages are clean and well arranged, making them easy to read.

So far, Houshin Engi seems worthwhile if you’re looking for an action manga; there’s plenty of fighting going on. Hopefully the plot is just getting warmed up. Houshin Engi is published in Japan by Jump Comics, and has yet to be licensed in the US.

Rating: B-
Date: 4/15/05
Thursday, February 9th, 2006
3:11 pm
[Review - manga - Viz] Gyo by Junji Ito
Title: Gyo by Junji Ito
Genre: Horror
Country: Japan
Reviewer: Denise Chang

Taking the fact that I’m not a horror fan into consideration, Gyo was an interesting but mediocre read. The main character in Gyo is Tadashi, and we first see his girlfriend and him discover a horrible-smelling fish with legs. Soon after, Japan is overrun by sea creatures with strange legs, which Tadashi’s scientist uncle begins to experiment on. The result is gruesome, to say the least! There is a constant question of whether these fish were a creation of man or produced somehow by nature, and also how they function, which brings out the supernatural touch of horror in the story. I didn’t care too much for it just because it made the story seem less real and therefore less chilling. Don’t get me wrong though; Gyo is filled with grotesque imagery and examples of the cruel and horrible things men can do. However, the story simply didn’t seem very plausible once the true mechanics of the legs were discovered and emphasized throughout the rest of the story. This doesn’t really happen until the second volume though, so you could say that it wasn’t until then that Gyo began to disinterest me. You might want to try out volume 1, but don’t expect too much from volume 2.

Two short stories are included in the second volume of Gyo. The first, “The Sad Tale of the Principal Post,” was short and stupid and I didn’t like it. The second, “The Enigma of Amigara Fault,” was about people drawn to the discovery of human-shaped holes in the side of a mountain. I think I might have liked this story better than the main one – the premise behind it seemed to be a lot scarier. I can’t say that it would justify buying the second volume if you didn’t like the first volume of Gyo, though.

Junji Ito’s artwork carries his stories well. I like the way that he draws people, with faces that are done in a way so that they always seem to show intense emotion (at least, Tadashi always looks super worried). Other major elements like fish and machinery are done looking very realistically, which heightens their grotesqueness (making me go ‘ewwww!’ more than once). When it comes to horrific-looking people, however, something about them seems slightly more comical than disgusting. The effect might be stronger in a live action, but doesn’t come across well in print. As for Viz’s publishing, it seems no better and no worse than any other production (though I haven’t seen the original Japanese versions).

Gyo isn’t a great epic or a must read; I can’t recommend it as highly as I could others. It’s not bad, but also not great. If you’re a fan of horror, though, the genre is so miniscule in the American manga market that you might as well give it a shot. Completed at 2 volumes, Gyo is published by Viz and available for $12.95 per book.

Grade: B-
Date: 03/09/05
Wednesday, February 8th, 2006
4:30 pm
[Review - manga - Tokyopop] Model by Lee So Young
Model by Lee So Young

Jae is a Korean studying overseas to become an artist. One night, Jae's friend brings a passed out man to her apartment and leaves him there. As Jae finds out, the man is actually a vampire. Jae ends up striking a deal with the vampire, Micheal; Jae will stay with Micheal and paint his portrait or... die...? [okay, so I had to rewrite this summary part, and I really can't remember the exact terms of their agreement.]

I guess you could call Model a romantic gothic horror story. It’s not even very much horror unless you don’t like the imagery of a vampire feeding, which is about as gross as it gets [which is not at all, you baby!]. Continuing from the homepage’s summary, Jae goes to live with Michael in the mansion that he shares with his servant, Eva, and Ken, a young man who may or may not be his son. The plot of Model is alright, although somewhat soap opera-ish [then again, most shoujo manga are]. Actually, the main plot involving Jae and Michael is not as interesting as what is going on between the preexisting members of the household. Even at Volume 5, I felt that the author could have just done the story focusing on them and leaving Jae out altogether. Yeah, you may have guessed that I don’t like Jae – to me, the character just seems too stupid and dense while trying to be shown as insightful and bold and passionate and blah blah blah. Michael, Eva, and Ken, however, each have their own complex relationships and interesting back stories that I would like to see much further elaborated than they have been so far; enough so that I’ll continue buying Model to read about them. There are a few plot holes, story points, and relationships that could be explained or developed further for the audience, but it’s still a good read, and I have hope for future volumes. To sum it up, Model is a fairly interesting story that has both flaws and promise, with side characters that are more interesting than the main character.

The art of Model is very gothic, detailed, and lovely -- it’s something like a cross between Kouyu Shurei [Alichino] and Kim Kang Won [INVU]. However, while it’s very aesthetically pleasing, there’s also that otherworldly ‘wrongness’ to it; emotions are portrayed as sort of unrealistic, and limbs, while being characteristically long and lanky, are amazingly *too* much so, seeming stiff and lacking flexibility. But the art is, nevertheless, gorgeous, and was the primary reason that I started buying the series. Tokyopop did a pretty good job using different fonts [the font that Michael speaks in is very ‘old English-y’] and the covers are designed very attractively.

If you’re looking for a vampire action thriller a la Hellsing and… well, Hellsing, then Model isn’t for you. It’s very relationship and drama oriented. It is, however, pretty good for its genre. Tokyopop publishes Model and releases it for $9.99 per volume. The series is complete at seven volumes, though this review is only based on having read the first five. This review does not reflect an opinion of the series as a whole, but nevertheless it will hopefully give you an idea of whether or not you would like to give Model a try.
4:17 pm
Finally, I decided
So, here's what's going down with this livejournal. I've decided to turn this into a review blog. It'll be mostly manga [both licensed and scanslated], but I might decide to add other things like albums, movies, anime, etc. To start off, I'm going to post up all the reviews that I did for Otakubooty (http://www.otakubooty.bootyproject.org). They're pretty professional looking, haha ^_^ There will be some edits though, to make them more updated. Anyway, I'll put up one a day [give or take] so as to not flood any friends journals [considering I usually never post] until I've run out of pre-written reviews. After that, they'll come as I read and as I feel like it.
Wednesday, January 5th, 2005
4:54 am
Okay, so I don't understand livejournal!!! LoL I don't understand deadjournal either, but at least I update in that thing. I think this thing is just going to be here for me to be able to join groups -_-** Damn.
Tuesday, June 22nd, 2004
8:14 pm
So I caved in and got a livejournal. I opened this journal so that I could join some of the cool communities out there and stuff ^_^**** We'll see what happens with this.
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