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Feasting on the "Fruits Basket"

26 Sep
Fruits Basket, also called Furuba, is a fantasy, slice of life manga by Natsuki Takaya. Now don’t be repelled by the fact that it’s just-another-shoujo-manga because it’s not. This one’s for those who love manga that tends to lean towards the philosophical side of life and is the best example of one of those life-lessons kind of manga that deals with some serious life issues in an intellectual way.

So here’s what I think of the manga, along with a brief description of the story.
Plot: The story revolves around a young high school girl Tohru Honda (Don’t worry, this is where the cliché ends.) who, after losing her parents, lived in a little tent on the outskirts on the city and tried her hardest to support herself without anyone’s help. Her life, which was already out of ordinary, takes another turn when she finds out that her classmate, Yuki Sohma, is actually a part of a strange family that is possessed by the spirit of the 12 zodiacal animals; and every time they are hugged by the opposite gender, they transform into their zodiacal animal. 

Tohru also finds out that the place where she lived actually belonged to the Sohma’s, but being the kind Sohma’s they are, they allow her to use the space. That doesn’t turn out to be of much help as the tent gets blown away by the storm and Yuki offers her to live with them in their house.
As Tohru continues to live with them and meet new members from the Sohma family, she slowly begins to understand the family’s inner turmoil and quite unexpectedly becomes the biggest strength of a family that is at the brink of breaking apart.

Story: Now if you happen to dig for meaningful stories with life lessons while managing to keep the story light and humorous, this is the story for you!

The 12 Sohmas you come across are more like 12 different personalities you’d probably come across in life and all of them happen to have various problems ranging from rejecting or being rejected by the family to having to grow up being wilfully forgotten by their mother or forcefully make the one they love forget about them. And each character’s story has something to learn from, and I doubt you could ever forget them.
The story carefully deals with various issues of life, one by one, without mixing them all together to turn it into one big mass of confusion. And what makes it better is how the author strings it all together in the end into one precious story that you’d treasure for the rest of your life.
The pacing of the story is great; a bit slow sometimes but quite addictive if you have the patience to give it a chance and give yourself some time to adjust with its pacing.
The romance part of it is just a classic type of a warm hearted girl accepting a boy who has been rejecting and hating himself all along. But in Furuba, this case is blown into an issue so big that it needs a level of maturity greater than just accepting someone because you’re oh-so-kind. And that’s what makes Tohru stand out. She decides to walk the thorny path together with him rather than conveniently pulling him towards the brighter side. And there’s a love story in all the 12 cases and like mentioned before, none of them could have been handled with maturity any lesser than what the characters have.
Characters: Like mentioned before, Furuba has all sorts of characters – literally all sorts! You have a hot headed boy who just wants to be loved, a cute kid who looks like a typical pampered kid but has the worst past you could ever imagine, a girl who’s in denial of herself but trying her hardest to keep the family together and an immensely optimistic girl who becomes the back bone of the Sohma family, all thrown in together to one big messy family that’s overflowing with problems.
I also like how the story doesn’t exactly have a bad guy – just a bunch of troubled people who like to mess things up.
I think the level of maturity that the characters portray is what makes it a refreshing and a sensible read that you can actually relate yourself with (even without being possessed by zodiacal animals) compared to other generic stories.
Art: Natsuki Takaya has a very distinct style of drawing that could be noticed throughout the story – especially the glassy effect of the eyes or sometimes the whole body that never fails to portray the turbulent emotions perfectly. You could say, that’s her signature style that made her art stand out so much from other mangaka. Throughout the story, the art is simple, which fits the simplicity of the story; no matter how complicated it is on the inside, the style is perfect for slice of life.
So that’s about Furuba! Let me end it with a few excerpts of the critics the story received that might give you a deeper insight about the story. (Courtesy: Wikipedia)
As this title progresses the fact that this title was one of the more popular series in Japan becomes clear. The characters get a lot of love. You get to experience them when things are good, as well as when they are struggling. The pacing is perfect. There is a good mix of comedy, fun filler, drama and action (something for everyone). In addition Fruits Basket is easy to relate to. With all the different personalities and the different signs of the zodiac, there is always someone to associate with. There are few titles that can do all that well, Fruits Basket puts all of these aspects together and makes a tasty treat…
Eduardo M. Chavez, AnimeOnDVD.com
The real strength of Natsuki Takaya’s artwork isn’t that that it looks good—though it definitely does, from its beautiful characters to the intricately rendered textures of their clothing—but how well it communicates mood and emotions. Not content to rely on facial expressions, though she does them well, Takaya is particularly apt at using shading and shadows to indicate character’s mental states… The details of character’s emotions—the disparity between Tohru’s private emotions and her public front, the punishing intensity of Kyo’s feelings for Tohru—are not only discernible but tangible, all without a word being spoken.
Carl Kimlinger, Anime News Network
The entire series of Fruits Basket proves to be a true emotional roller coaster, hiding truly deep and heartfelt drama behind a candy coating of fun and humour. Deep down, it explores many aspects of emotion as the various characters search for their place in the world, gaining strength from each other.
Allen Divers, Anime News Network
Signing off for this week!
-Seema  

Shugo chara – Manga Review

5 Sep
 

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Shugo-Chara seems, at first glance, like a cross between Cardcaptor Sakura and Gakuen Alice, with the main Tsundere heroine Amu Hinamori being quite similar to Sakura with her job of cleansing the “bad eggs” – much like how Sakura cleansed the cards in Cardcaptor Sakura; and her main rival Ikuto Tsukiyomi being a perfect rip-off of Natsume Hyuuga. Really, there’s absolutely no difference! 
And yet, there’s something about it that draws you in – be it the goth-punk-tsundere lead girl or the emo and flirty Ikuto. The manga has a nice blend of comedy, action and fantasy without anything blindingly ‘shojo’ in it.
Plot
The story of Shugo-Chara revolves around Amu Hinamori who is, as earlier described, a perfect tsundere goth-punk character who has a reputation of being ‘cool and spicy’ in the middle school she studies in. However, this is not her true character. Her true self happens to be an extremely shy girl with absolutely no talent in socializing which she covers up perfectly with a cold exterior demeanor. Tiring of this duel personality, one night she makes a wish to give her enough courage to be her true self. 

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As a result of this, three eggs are born the next day, each of which hatches into little fairy characters called ‘Shugo-Chara’ who represent her inner desires: Su, who represents her wish to be good at cooking; Ran, who represents her wish to be good at sports and Miki, who represents her wish to be artistic.

The fact that she owns them is however discovered by the four guardians of the school, who are basically students with their own shugo-chara taking care of the schools administration. They request Amu to be a part of the guardians and ask her to help them find the ‘Embryo’ – a mythical egg that fulfills the owner’s desire. This gets Amu involved in a lot more than she bargained for as she is assigned to be a cleanser of the ‘x-eggs’ which are eggs that represents the wishes of children who have given up on it and not to mention, fight against the evil organization ‘Easter’, that is set out to look for Embryo too.
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This introduces her to the character Ikuto who is sent by Easter and is also after the Embryo for his own personal reasons. As the story unfolds, Amu begins to discover the true nature of the organization and also the mysterious character Ikuto, who strangely seems to be helping her more than going against her. 
But the beauty of the story lies in the intricate manner in which the author has slipped in the situations that we face in real life, that bring us down and force us to lose our true self and cast away our dreams. This, being the central theme of the entire story, is given extreme importance. The author continues to play with the same issue with different personalities who have different priorities and the various methods they resort to in order to deal with their problems and in the end find their true self in their own way.
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This is not the only concern it deals with though. As Amu continues to cleanse each egg, a new problem and a new concern is brought into light with the appearance of each egg and the cleansing indicating that there is always a way out of any tribulation or concern as long as one believes in himself/herself.
Characters
As I mentioned before, the most refreshing thing about Shugo-Chara is the fact that the lead girl is not the usual happy-go-lucky and super optimistic hyperactive girl. Instead, she has her own confusions about what she truly is – she is bratty, she can bad mouth anyone if she wants and she’s an imperfect and insecure girl who is still looking for her true self and has a lot more crushes on her classmates than she can handle!
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Apart from her, most of the characters are the usual kind and sweet supporters of the main girl, always guiding her from the sidelines. Be it the Prince-Complex Tadase or the cross dresser Nadeshiko or the baby of the group, Yaya, they never fail to keep you entertained.
And another interesting character is Ikuto, who, like I mentioned before, is a perfect rip-off of Natsume. He seems like someone who’s forced to be bad for some of his own personal reasons and is fighting to free himself from it. And thus, he finds a strange solace in Amu who can strangely see right through him and believes that he might not really be as bad as he looks. 
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Artwork
Art style of peach pit seems to fit the shojo feel of the manga perfectly. In case you happen to be a girl who is an ardent shojo fans, you would immediately fall in love with Amu’s goth-punk style of dressing. The character designing is quite unique, with each character having their own distinct style and look that sets them apart.
Shugo Chara might seem like a typical shojo at first glance, but I guess it all depends on the way you perceive it. It remains as an entertaining shojo if you don’t bother to look much into the story and it seems like a life lesson if you try and figure out the subtle messages hidden throughout the story. 
If you don’t mind the slight childishness of the story (apart from Ikuto who easily makes you forget that the story is originally for young girls) this is something that is sure to keep you entertained!
– By Seema Kakade
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Adventures of a Rose (A shoujo review)

29 Aug
 

Pulling from our favourites once again folks, here’s something especially for the ladies! Barajou No Kiss (a.k.a. “Kiss of the Rose Princess”)!!
This is a shoujo that I absolutely loved for its uniqueness… OK, maybe not so unique since the story keeps reminding me of Card Captor Sakura now and then, but it’s still unique to a great extent never the less.
To begin with, the entire portrayal of the manga screams 19th century England, and yet, somehow it oozes the Japanese essence in the story as well as the art – the kind of blend that is hard to get and the mangaka has managed to capture the essence of both elements and mix them up perfectly. Anyway, so without further ado, let me dive straight into the details you’re all waiting to find out.

Plot: 
The story of Barajou No Kiss is a fantasy, action, adventure and romance story by Shouoto Aya that revolves around a high school girl (now that’s what I call a real surprise!), Anis Yamamoto, who is given this strange choker by her father that looks like a black neck-strap with a pretty rose at the center. Her father specifically warns her not to lose the choker and that if she does she will be punished severely! Now, now, its not because the choker is super rare or expensive. The choker has a long story of its own that will be revealed later – no, not in the review, I mean in the story. 

Anis of course is far from happy with the choker since it attracts a lot of attention and wearing something like that goes against the dress code, which is why she’s always being chased around by a disciplinarian teacher, threatening her to take it off.
The teacher’s wish comes true as the choker comes off her finally, but to her dismay, is immediately lost – more like taken away by a strange(-ly cute) creature. Anis is now terrified, wondering what her punishment might be and starts looking for it before her father finds out about it, leading her to a discovery that changes her life.
I’m not going to spoil the story for you by spilling out what happens after that but lets just say it turns her life upside down. (Oh my! I dunno how many of these surprises I can take!) The story might seem like old wine in a new bottle, but the new bottle is what makes it interesting!


Story: 
Since I have probably already dragged on enough, let me say what I think of it, briefly. The story is definitely good so far, though I’m not sure if guys would enjoy it as much. That depends on your tastes I suppose – if you happen to love gory stuff, you might find this a little boring. Now let me inform that the story is far from the usual magical-girl story and I definitely like it’s narration and pacing. It doesn’t drag on such that anything needs to be fast-forwarded and slows down and gives enough explanation where it’s needed. Also, since the main character is a mush-hater you don’t have to worry about her giving emotional speeches at random.

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The story doesn’t really have a kawaii or moe feel to it and the girl does more than just waving her magical wand around. Wait, she doesn’t actually have one! Anyway, the feel of the story leans more towards Goth than moe, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy reading it.
The story does have a considerable amount of twists of its own and a lot of new characters popping up periodically, each more annoying than the other – but at some point it becomes kinda obvious where the story is leading. But that’s not the end. There’s still a lot of juice left in the fuel-tank in the form of some unanswered questions that you want to see answered and some new incidents that intensify the storyline. I’d give it a 6 on 10 for the originality of the story, since it reminded me of Card Captor Sakura, once it boiled down to its main plot.


Characters: 
The characters are definitely not of a new breed. The girl is a typical Tsundere, but what I loved about her is how strong she is as a person. She comes across a lot of shocking revelations about people close to her, but that doesn’t shake her. She continues to move ahead, never unnerved by any of the disastrous stuff that happens to her. She’s not the kind to cry when something goes wrong or run to help. Well, maybe she does, sometimes, but not in a way that makes her look like a typical damsel in distress.
So that’s it for the main character. Other characters, like her, are not entirely of a new breed either but have been defined well and shown to possess a very good sense of judgement and know what to prioritize at what moment.
Character design is beautiful. This manga is definitely not short of bishonen, as expected of a pro shojo mangaka. So considering all these elements, I’d give it 6 on 10 for character design including their personality.

Art: 
I could write an entire page describing the beautiful artwork in this manga, but I’ll sum it up for you in one word – GORGEOUS! 
If you happen to love the kind of art style you get to see in Kuroshitsuji a.k.a. Black Butler, you are going to love this. There is absolutely no flaw in the art style and as I mentioned earlier, it brings out that old English essence and yet manages to keep you reminded through its art that it’s still very Japanese. I also love how it maintains that goth-magical feel to it while still keeping a casual high school life atmosphere without making the two elements blatantly distinct. The mangaka definitely knows how to blend them, I’d give her that.
 So overall I’d rate it 10 on 10 for its perfect art and character design.

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The story is a fun read if you are looking for a fantasy and shoujo story with a goth element in it. I’d rate this manga 7 on 10 for the overall enjoyment factor, no matter how much it reminds me of a certain CLAMP work. It’s still fun to read.
That’s all about Barajou No Kiss. See ya again next Monday with another review. If you have any particular review request, you can let me know in the comments.
Also let me know if you’d like me to cover some other aspects of the manga I review, so you can get the best of me.
Happy reading!


– By Seema Kakade

xxxHolic

26 Jul

xxxHolic: Review by Seema Kakade

There are some Manga that are so popular, that they don’t even need an introduction, let alone a review. Yet, I’ve seen a lot of people shunning away from these amazing pieces of works either due to a misleading title or a shoujo-ish outer appearance. Case in point – xxxHolic.
So for all those who are lingering around this manga without enough confidence to start reading it, I’m here to give you a brief overview of this cult classic.


xxxHolic, also simply known as Holic, is a fantasy, psychological and philosophical story by the famous group of manga artists CLAMP. Since the story happens to be a crossover series of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle and Card Captor Sakura, many incidents in the story might throw you off the course, but I assure you, that you can totally understand the story even if you don’t know squat about the aforementioned stories. So, without further ado, let me give you a brief introduction of the story.
Plot – The story opens with a young high school boy, Watanuki Kimihiro, who has supernatural powers to see demons and spirits (no, it’s not the usual cliché story of saving the world; there’s much more to it in this one!) being, as usual, followed, trapped and tormented by a bunch of spirits, while he does everything in is power, which is next to nothing, to get rid of them. While he is busy performing this feat, he ends up landing in front of a strange, old styled building that is squeezed between two modern sky scrapers.
xxxHolic 1 Cover

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While he is contemplating what the building is doing in such a strange place, he is involuntarily dragged inside the building, where he meets a strange woman, who calls herself a fortune teller and the owner of the fortune telling shop, which is what the strange building happens to be. This woman, who introduces herself as Ichihara Yuuko, a wish granter, strikes a deal with Watanuki that she’ll help him get rid of his power for a certain price. Before Watanuki can contemplate what is happening to him, the deal is sealed and as a price, Watanuki becomes Yuuko’s servant.  

xxxHolic
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Story – That’s just the beginning of the story as it takes you into a rollercoaster ride of strange events that slowly change Watanuki’s life as well as his personality, as he begins to understand and discover little truths of his life and finally realize where he really stands.
So what is so philosophical about the story, I hear thee ask? The philosophical part about the story is the fact that you can clearly see Watanuki growing as a person from a nagging and slightly self-centered person to a truly responsible, mature and an understanding individual. Since anything more than this is going to give away a lot of spoilers, let’s just say this series is a feast for those with an appetite for intellectual stories and you would definitely not want to miss it! 


The story manages to remain on track and does a surprisingly good job at blending itself with the story of Tsubasa Chronicle and not to mention, maintain the right timeline without giving away the spoiler for the latter series and what’s more, everything makes sense in the end! Now that’s what I call a planned story! I’d give it for the sheer lack of possibility of being able to predict absolutely anything in the story. Heck, it doesn’t even give you enough time to get over one shock and it drops the next bomb! 
Center Spread – Watanuki spots Yūko for the first time

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The story does go off track now and then, which I feel was necessary to make sure the story isn’t too heavy to digest. It’s like a light breeze that blows in once in a while that pulls you out of all the tension before pushing you into another crazy rollercoaster ride.


The story also gives you little tidbits on the values of life now and then, which is a perfect addition for those who love a bit of intellectual essence in the story, which is why I put this in the philosophical genre.

Characters – Characters are undoubtedly mature and not your usual moe or tsundere characters seen everywhere these days. So, this one’s a safe haven for those who are sick of them – yes that includes me too. So how are the characters so unique? For starters, you have a character like Watanuki who explodes like a fire cracker at every little thing and is yet, extremely understanding and happens to be an excellent listener. He just does not tolerates anything that doesn’t make sense, which is why he explodes!
Watanuki meets Yūko with Maru & Moro 
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And there are characters like Yuuko, who is all-knowing and extremely intellectual, yet, fun loving and bullying Watanuki happens to be her favorite hobby. Apart from these two main characters, there’s Himawari -Watanuki worships the ground she walks on, who is an extremely strong girl with a strong will to continue to keep utmost faith in herself and keep moving forward no matter what life throws in her way. Her outwardly cute personality if effective in hiding the strong person that she is, on the inside, which Watanuki begins to adore even more.

There are loads of other supporting characters like Doumeki , Mokona and Doumeki’s grandfather who continues to support Watanuki from the sidelines and several characters from Tsubasa Chronicle that make occasional appearance in this manga. I’d give it an 7 on 10 for the uniqueness of the characters alone.

Art – Character design, as expected from CLAMP, is unique and exceptional. Well, this might not exactly be a treat for gory lovers, but the delicate and elegant appearances of the characters fits the feel of the story perfectly. It’s also quite evident that the manga artists have adopted a slightly Indian feel to the characters, at least on the covers that just makes it so much more enthralling.


 The overall art has a very enchanting and fantasy feel to it and occasionally, you might come across art work that seems to be inspired by the traditional Japanese ukiyo-e wood prints style of art and a little bit of traditional Japanese and Chinese art style thrown into the mix that mokona, the character designer of CLAMP, churned into the unique art style that you get to savor in the story. Apparently, art was also inspired by Alphonse Mucha, who Mokona is a huge fan of. Apart from that, you can also notice that the art style is very similar to the one that is incorporated in CLAMP’s previous work RG Veda, but this is one unique style that you would fall in love with. Everything from the enchanting smokes that is so ukiyo-e, to the gorgeous detailing of the outfits and the alluring waves in which the hair flows has a way to pull you into the world of ancient Japanese fantasy. 

All-in-all I’d give it 9 on 10 for everything ranging from the originality of the story to the character design and the overall enjoyment factor. I’ll have to take away the one point for the fact that the story kind of drifts away from the main story once in a while, which never made me complain though.

xxxHolic 2: Cover
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Monday Manga Madness Redux: Aishiteruze Baby

12 Jul


– A review by Seema Kakade

Genre: Shojo Manga

Aishiteruze Baby, a.k.a. I love you, baby is one of those rare manga you come across that manages to portray the beauty of the father and child relationship perfectly. As misleading as the title maybe, which, I believe, is the reason why half of the shonen manga lovers might have shunned away from it, the manga isn’t much about what it appears from the title.

Story: Aishiteruze, Baby is a story about Kippei Katakura is a high school boy, who, not so surprisingly, is a perv and spends most of the time goofing around with girls. His peaceful life is suddenly turned upside down with the arrival of a 5 year old child, Yuzuyu Sakashita, who is, apparently, his cousin. Since her mother fled home leaving the child under the care of her relatives, Kippei is assigned the task of babysitting the girl. Kippei is beyond confused as to what to do with her since he doesn’t know squat about taking care of a child, but decides to go with the flow.

The story weaves in beautifully from here, with each incident marking a slight change in Kippei’s personality, as he transforms from a carefree guy to a responsible father-figure, almost to the point of not being able to stay away from her.  He gives up his licentious ways and decides to dedicate all his time to taking care of the child, even to the point of waking up early in the morning and taking special care to make lunch for her. And that is not the story is all about. The manga also manages to capture the insecurities of the child, since she thinks the reason why her mother abandoned her was because she wasn’t good enough, which makes her want to be as less of a bother as possible and also the fear of being abandoned by Kippei as well. Even though it seems a little unnatural for a five year old to be so mature regarding relationships or even know what is happening around, it perfectly captures the emotional turmoil, the burden and the fears of an abandoned child. Kippei understands this and acts as her protective shield giving her all the support she needs to keep faith in herself and keep moving ahead.

The story may not be one-of-its-kind, but this is probably one of those rare father-child kinds of stories where you can really see the relationship building from scratch. And of course from all the lessons learnt from various situations the duo has to deal with.


Characters: There are no out-of-the-world characters, which keeps the story on a realistic level. Each character has their own background which makes them react to situations in different ways and yet understand and support each other. Character design might not be so unique you could tell them apart instantly, but the style of drawing them is definitely unique to the author.  There may not be extreme variety of characters but the manga does not bore you with monotonous personalities. The characters range from the cute and bubbly Yuzuyu, to easy going Kippei, who seems to have heard of the word ‘responsibility’ only after the arrival of Yuzuyu, and the unfathomable personality of Kokoro, who is Kippei’s girlfriend.

Art: Art is good for a slice of life story. They are not gorgeous but good enough to maintain the feel of slice of life. The backgrounds are simple and so are the characters. At this point, yes, I’m totally tempted to write an essay on the unexplainable cuteness of Yuzuyu, but I’m going to refrain myself for now.
The manga is a good read if you are looking for a change from usual romance, but don’t want to try something as serious as shonen. 

Monday Manga Madness: Tower of God

4 Jul

A review by Seema Kakade

It’s not always I come across a story that is something different from a 16 year old high school teen doing everything to find a boyfriend for herself and when she does, the guy turns out to be a vamp or a monster etc. OR a 16 year old high school teen that is suddenly bestowed with a supernatural power and now has to save the world. So, well, you get the idea how cliché most stories are getting lately. But, Tower of God, here, blows the mountain of cliché stories up in the land of cliché-ness to win itself the title of the King of Originality hands down!

Tower of God

Summary – Tower of God is an action and adventure story by Siu, which is basically about a young boy called Twenty-fifth Baam (yes, the name is so unique too that it totally throws you, but you get used to it) who is stuck in this dark world, which is actually a strange tower full of strange creatures and a strange world of their own, that he knows nothing about, only to be saved by a young girl, who quickly becomes his one and only friend and the most important person in his life. So after a few years, when she suddenly decides to climb up the tower to see the sky and a whole new world of its own, as it is rumored, Baam is less than disappointed. But before he gets a chance to speak his opinion, she disappears. Having no other reason to continue living, he decides to dedicate the rest of his life to find her. And the only way to do that is climb up the tower and hope to bump into her on the way. So, the story is all about the trials and series of tests he has to pass to clear each level of the tower and keep climbing up. And since there are a lot of different paths to climb up, his only hope to meet her is through coincidence or a rare stroke of luck, which doesn’t stop him from giving it a try.

THE Tower of God!!!
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Story – Tower of God is an extremely engaging story that is full of twists that leaves you either gasping with surprise or jaws dropped at the end of almost each chapter. And the plot only gets thicker and more complicated as you move on. I can guarantee there wouldn’t be a single moment throughout the story where you’d want to quit or wonder how long it’s going to drag on. You have everything – well thought characters, a very original story with twists that seem to never end, intelligent dialogues, sensible scenarios that sometimes almost make you go what-crappy-mangas-was-I-reading –until-now! And that is not an exaggeration. This is a must read if you are looking for something other than a 16 year old teen fighting off evil with his super powers, really!
Sample Page 1
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Characters – As I said before, the characters are quite unique (no typical tsundere, yandere, kawaii etc. characters – AT ALL!). The characters are smart, which you can tell from the intelligent conversations they engage each other with. There is also a pretty wide variety of characters you come across too – ranging from a completely idiotic monster alligator (yes, he’s an important character there!) to an almost invincible lizard warrior who is desperate to claim her position as a princess of one of the kingdoms inside the tower (yes, they even have towns and cities inside the tower) to our hero, who’s naïve but quite sensible and extremely cooperative kid stuck in the middle of the never-ending absurdities of the tower. Overall, I’d give an 8/10 for originality, personality-wise, apart from considering the fact that most of them are not really humans.  Even the lizard princess looks really cool when you see her actually get down to business.  The names are quite original, but I wouldn’t give the manhwa much credit for its character design.
Sample Page 2
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Art – Art is not exactly wow, but not something that would make you wish you were blind. It’s average at best, but good enough to pass. The movements of the characters are fluid (unlike the stiff movements you see in Hwang Mi-Ri’s manhwas) and drawn quite well. I wouldn’t rate it much for the expressions and originality in the outfits either. Most of them wear plain outfits – nothing out of the world, and places are, well, let’s just say they are either open fields or an ordinary four-walled room or a dueling room. But, since the story is good, I’d let the plainness of the background and the characters pass. Don’t expect the art to get any better as the story goes, either. But the best thing about this is how each chapter is completed in a single page, which is SUPER long and all of them are colored. This is one unique part about the manhwa that I’m sure you’d enjoy. I’d give it 10/10 for story boarding! It truly is exceptional! I especially loved how certain scenes are broken by just plain dialogues or thoughts that only intensify the moment.
Overall, it’s quite a good read and a good break from the usual cliché mangas. I’d recommend it at least for the originality of the story that the author has come up with. It’s like a breath of fresh air in a room that is stinking with over-used plots and characters! Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.