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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.
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.
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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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.

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!

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.

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.

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

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. 

Snap Reviews: Gakuen Alice Vol 1

30 Nov

-By Seema Kakade

Gakuen Alice is one of those rare masterpiece that somehow goes unnoticed due to an uninteresting start or perhaps the kind of image that was projected by the Anime version of the story to the viewers, shrugging it off as just another school romance. As it does have some amount of school romance squeezed in here and there, that later develops into a full fledged platform for the rest of the story to weave in, there is also another darker version of the story lurking around the corner, urging the readers to wait and see.

Volume One begins with an interesting life of Mikan Sakura in the unusual school meant for Alices, a special ability in a certain person, which does not quite reflect an impression of a masterpiece, although it gives a couple of hints of a greater story coming ahead. It’s just one of those stories that move in a pace that allows the reader to relish it and adjust to it at her own pace until the real story gears up and takes you on a roller coaster ride.

Gakuen Alice : The Storyline

Gakuen Alice opens with the main protagonist, Mikan Sakura, protesting the decision of the school she attends to, to close down due to inadequate funds. This, much to Mikan’s dismay, falls on deaf ears since her friends couldn’t care less about it and are in fact excited about moving to a better school. But her prayers are finally answered with her best friend Hotaru paying for the funds with the money she gets by agreeing to go to Alice Academy.

Several months pass and as Mikan fails to hear from her best friend, her anxiety gets the better of her as she sets off to Tokyo to meet her friend. But again, things turn out different from what she expected as she finds out she’s an Alice too and this new discovery gives her an opportunity to join the school. Mikan, being naive, happily agrees to it with no clue of knowing what a dangerous world she’s entering into.
This is proved as soon as she’s admitted to the class when the notorious Natsume Hyuuga, Mikan’s classmate challenges her to cross the dangerous Northern Forest to test the Alice that she herself is not aware of. With the help of her friends, Mikan manages to pass his little dare to be allowed to be a part of the class which also finally exposes her rare nullification Alice.

Pretty Shojo or Dark Shonen?

Surprisingly, Gakuen Alice is a rare mix of both. It’s neither a complete school romance nor a complete action with wars and bloodshed. Higuchi Tachibana is a talented story teller who has wrapped the dark and mysterious story around a delicate touch of shojo in a way that never fails to impress the readers of all tastes. Even though the beginning is slow, it still has a way to keep you flipping the page trying to see what happens next, as the author leaves behind a little cliffhanger at the end of each chapter. The art of Gakuen Alice is extremely unique, especially the light touch of a fairy tale feel that the author has managed to create which is again subtle enough to not drown the dark feel that surrounds the story.

The characters are extremely unique from each other ranging from a happy-go-lucky Mikan whose personality is as clear as water to a mysterious Natsume who is the hardest nut crack. The intricacy of relationships and emotions are brought about wonderfully in each character as they appear to care about people around them and find solutions to problems in their own way, be it openly like Mikan does or by sacrificing their happiness that is best seen in Natsume and his best friend Ruka.

The real story in Gakuen Alice has merely started by the end of the volume but here again, the author has weaved the story in a perfect pace that allows the reader to take their own time to understand the characters and the intricacy of the story and savor every moment of it. And like always, the author leaves behind another mystery and another loose thread that keeps the reader begging for more.