Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Manga Review: Fruits Basket, Vol. 1

Author: Natsuki Takaya

Released: February 10th, 2004

Publisher: Tokyopop

# of pages: 200

Summary from Goodreads:

Tohru Honda was an orphan, living with her grandfather, when one day fate kicked her out of the house and she was forced to take up residence in a tent in the forest. Little did she know that the land she was staying on belonged to the Sohma family, a clan of beautiful and mysterious people. After stumbling upon the teenage squatter, the Sohmas invite Tohru to stay in their house in exchange for cooking and cleaning. Everything's going well until she discovers the Sohma family's greatest secret: when hugged by members of the opposite sex, they each turn into their Chinese Zodiac animal!

Plot: Tohru Honda is a shy, cheerful girl who has been recently orphaned and now lives in a tent pitched in a field. When exploring the land near her field, she stumbles across the Sohma house, where the cousins Shigure and Yuki Sohma live. The guys can't seem to keep the place clean, and Tohru desperately needs a home and family, so they take her in as a sort of housekeeper/little sister combo. Conflict arises when a third cousin, Kyo, moves into the house and causes Tohru to find out the family's centuries-old secret.

The premise is definitely wacky, but that's common for for shojo (girls) manga. The fact that the curse is hug-activated is ironic and really adorable, and the curse is often played for laughs--when Tohru accidentally bumps into Kyo and he turns into a cat for the first time, her reaction is priceless. But beyond the humor, the curse is also shown to be tragic, since it isolates the Sohmas from close non-family friendships.

Characters: The characters are the big draw of the series. Yuki Sohma is so highly adored, the girls at his school actually call him "Prince Yuki" and have a fanclub that decides who gets to spend time with him. Yuki's kind of brooding because he's been brainwashed by Akito, the head of the Sohma family, to think that he's a freak of nature. Once Tohru knows his secret, Yuki is pleasantly surprised that she still wants to be his friend. He's mostly cool-headed and reserved, and is the Rat in the zodiac--due to the culture gap, being a rat actually doesn't carry any negative connotations with it.

Kyo likes martial arts and trains extensively so that he can beat his rival Yuki, but Yuki always wins their fights. Tohru feels extra sorry for Kyo because he's an outcast even among the Sohmas, and doesn't get along well with other people. Kyo is the Cat, and is harboring his own dark secret, but he's a little one-note in this volume, and most of his development comes later in the series.

Shigure the Dog is a professional writer who lounges around the house in his robe and is always turning his wit on whoever happens to be nearby. He's an adult and is nominally in charge of the teen characters, but he's naturally irreverent and doesn't really discipline anyone.

Tohru's determined to make her own way in life and she works part-time to earn money for college. She never complains, to the extent that she'll do without things she needs to avoid burdening her friends, and she feels like she's all alone in the world. The title comes from a memorable game of Fruits Basket she played as a child, when the other kids intentionally left her out of the game.

Graphics: It's a serviceable art style. Nothing too gorgeous, but nothing left underdone, either. I usually read Takaya for the story, not the art.

Series info: There are 23 volumes in the Fruits Basket series, so if you plan to read the whole thing, brace yourself for an epic saga.

Some of the traumatic emotional themes may make this series inappropriate for younger readers.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Graphic Novel Fave - Castle Waiting

Alright, wow - has it been weeks guys? I feel guilty. So, we're starting a new weekly feature here on Girls Love Graphic Novels covering past favorites. On Monday, we'll have a Graphic Novel Fave and on Tuesday we'll have a Manga Fave. These are books we've read in the past that we love and want to share with you.

Today Kristen (me) is sharing a personal favorite graphic novel!

Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

Goodreads Description:

The multiple Harvey and Eisner award-winning fantasy is now collected in one volume!

The 450-page Castle Waiting graphic novel tells the story of an isolated, abandoned castle, and the eccentric inhabitants who bring it back to life. A fable for modern times, Castle Waiting is a fairy tale that's not about rescuing the princess, saving the kingdom, or fighting the ultimate war between Good and Evil—but about being a hero in your own home.

For the first time, Fantagraphics' Castle Waiting collects the entire story into one mammoth volume—and includes the concluding chapter written and drawn especially for this volume.

Wittily reinterpreting the Grimm Brothers classic tale "Briar Rose" (Sleeping Beauty) as a story of love, enchantment, and sibling rivalry, the opening chapter "The Curse Of Brambly Hedge" sets the stage for the story.

In the second chapter, "The Lucky Road," Lady Jain's fairy-tale life turns out not-so-happily ever after, as she leaves to search for Castle Waiting, a wondrous, mythical refuge where "all are welcome." Jain soon finds the castle is very much a home as well as a refuge, and learns to fit in with its eccentric inhabitants as she discovers how she can help them bring the lonesome, dilapidated place back to life.

The third chapter, "Solicitine," tells the story of Peaceful Warren, a young woman destined and determined to live an unconventional life. From the barroom to the circus to the convent and beyond, this chapter is a tale of an extraordinary adventure, an extraordinary friendship, and of making a place for oneself in the world.

An artist with 20 years' experience in comics and children's books, Linda Medley lavishly illustrates Castle Waiting in a classic visual style reminiscent of Arthur Rackham and William Heath Robinson. Blending elements from a variety of sources—fairy tales, folklore, nursery rhymes—Medley tells the story of the everyday lives of fantastic characters with humor, intelligence, and insight into human nature. Castle Waiting can be read on multiple levels and can be enjoyed by children and literate adults.

And one of my favorite panels...

So, why is this book so great? It's fairy tales that's a bit more grown-up. It's also compiled into a 450 page book which is just fantastic for those that just want to read and read and read. I just love the stories in this graphic novel and the artwork. Totally brilliant and one you guys need to pick up!

I'm really excited, because this winter....

Gah!! It's comes out two days after my birthday! I rarely pre-order books, but I think I will have to for this one!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Manga Review: Black Bird, Vol. 1

Author: Kanoko Sakurakoji

Released: August 4th 2009

Publisher: VIZ Media

# of Pages: 194 

Summary: (from Goodreads)

There is a world of myth and magic that intersects ours, and only a special few can see it. Misao Harada is one such person, and she wants nothing to do with magical realms. She just wants to have a normal high school life and maybe get a boyfriend. All that changes one day when Misao is attacked by a demon. Her childhood friend Kyo suddenly returns to save her and tend to her cuts--with his tongue! It turns out Misao is the bride of prophecy, whose blood gives power to the demon clan who claims her. But most demons want to keep her power for themselves--by eating her! Now Misao is just trying to stay alive...and decide if she likes it when Kyo licks her wounds.

Plot: Although I feel like I have read something similar to this before, Black Bird definitely kept my attention. I absolutely loved that Sakurakoji mixes bits of violence, romance, and Japanese folk lore into this novel creating something that feels both authentic and fictional at the same time. The pacing of the novel is also something that really impressed me. The details of the novel are slowly revealed which allowed me to get to know the characters and understand each person's role in the overall story.

Characters: Black Bird is a novel FULL of characters. But what I loved was that I did not feel overpowered by them. Each had their own personality... their own traits. So by the end of the novel, it was easy to remember each of them for their own special reasons.

Graphics: Black Bird is a beautifully drawn novel. All the characters and scenery are just wonderful to look at. This is one of those novels that I would just love to jump into it and visit.

Series Info:
There are currently four volumes of this series available with the fifth being released in August of 2010. Currently, the sixth volume is set to release in November of 2010.

Due to some sexual content and violence / gore, this manga is rated YA, and may not be suitable for readers under 16.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Graphic Novel Review: Chosen

Author: Ted Dekker
Illustrator: J.S. Earls
Publication date: November 2008
Genre: Fantasy/Graphic Novel
Copy Provided by: Library
Summary (via Goodreads):

Chosen - The land of the Forest Dwellers has been decimated by the Horde, and Thomas Hunter is forced to lower the recruitment age of his army. From among thousands, four new recruits are chosen to lead--and perhaps die--for the greater good. But their first mission takes a turn when they are intercepted and given a new assignment. Now they must find the seven lost Books of History. Books that control not only the destiny of their world . . . but also of ours.

Plot: It may have helped if I had read the novels before reading this graphic novel. The story line seemed pretty basic, almost too much so. It's an adventure novel, involving some bickering because one of the characters won his place in the group a somewhat nontraditional way. It just felt a little corny at times, but otherwise fit all the standards of an adventure novel with fantasy elements - they were constantly moving and getting in and out of problems.

Characters: They fell pretty flat. Also, the little weird bat-like creatures that help them throughout the novel are kinda.. too cute? I felt at times like some of the characters seemed over the top, much more than they would be in the actual novel.

Graphics: I actually really liked the style. The full color graphics were pretty awesome and I liked the design of the characters and the settings. Visually a lot better than I thought it would be.

Similar Graphic Novels:
Artemis Fowl, the Graphic Novel by Eoin Colfer
Stormbreaker - the Graphic Novel by Anthony Horowitz
Redwall the Graphic Novel by Brian Jacques

Series Info:

Infidel - Graphic Novel (book 2)
Renegade - Graphic Novel (book 3)
Chaos - Graphic Novel (book 4)

Appropriate for ages 12 and up.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Vampire Kisses Winner!

Sorry about the delay. Kate and I have barely been able to talk lately with her new job, so I drew a winner for our launch giveaway! :) Thank you to all who entered and for following this blog. I should be posting at least one or two reviews this week, so keep your eyes out for that! :)

And our winner of the signed copy of Vampire Kisses manga is:

Congrats! I will be emailing you in a few minutes here for your mailing address!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Graphic Novel Database

In my undergraduate program, I met a fantastic lady named Jen who taught most of my language arts classes in the program - my favorite of which was Childrens' Literature. I asked her an interesting question in our first semester together and that was, "Can we use graphic novels and how do you want us to categorize them?" for the project in which we had to read a ton of kids' books. She said she didn't really read them and told me to use my digression.

But later, she came back to me, feeling horrible she had never given the genre a try and asked for a list of recommendations. In later semesters, she decided to incorporate it into the curriculum we were learning and asked me to speak about them with another class. And since then, I've stopped by her class every semester to do a short talk and the best of which she also asked me to do a Roundtable with her Masters' class she teaches during the summer. For those unfamiliar with the term, every one reads and brings in a few graphic novels and we go around and discuss them and then close up with how we would use them in the classroom/library.

So, for these purposes, I have been adding to a long list of Graphic Novels I've read over the year and wanted a place to put them. Figure this blog is a great place and that some of my readers would be interested in this list.

So, without further ado - click the link. :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Graphic Novel Review: Gloomcookie, Vol. 1

Author: Serena Valentino
Illustrator: Ted Naifeh
Publication date: December 2006
Genre: Fantasy/Graphic Novel
Copy Provided by: Myself, I bought it. :)
Summary (via Amazon):

The long-awaited GloomCookie graphic novel contains issues 1-6 of this popular comic book series, as well as some other ninja-type surprises, never before seen sketches, Serena’s bad art, a cute Halloween story about The Monster entitled “Trick Or Treat”, special guest artists thingies (Ooooo! Wait till you see ‘em!), Lex’s vocabulary list and LOTS of other squishy stuff to make you happy. As always, wrapped in a gorgeous cover by Ted Naifeh.

The Gloomcookie comic book series is a goth soap opera set in the San Francisco club scene.

Plot: Mixed with bits of fairy tales here and there, this graphic novel mainly follows Lex, a girl who is in love with a boy who prefers an unreachable woman - the wicked queen figure of the club scene and only stays with Lex until she admits her love for him.

Add in her companion, a man who starts to grow close to Lex, but their love is a doomed love for it has repeatedly failed for generations and generations. A story which is discovered during a trip to New Orleans. Add in a carnival, a monster under the bed, and some seriously funny gothic club commentary and you've got a winner of a graphic novel.

Characters: I absolutely love Lex - she uses cute words like "oogie" and "squishy" and "yummy" and she is an incredibly good pouter. She's definitely a good fit for the damsel in distress role in this fairy tale. The other characters are equally as unique and though briefly introduced in the first volume, certainly leave a mark on your memory for the later volumes.

Graphics: Ted Naifeh is my favorite graphic novel artist. I love everything he's ever done and you'll probably see his name crop up A LOT on this blog. I'm sad that he only illustrates this first volume and his graphics are probably the reason that this is my favorite volume of the series. He has a unique way of drawing characters that just draws your eye and you can see the style across his novels. He really is a fantastic artist.

Similar Graphic Novels:
Courtney Crumrin series by Ted Naifeh
Kin by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh
Clubbing by Andi Watson
Life Sucks by Jessica Abel

Series Info:

There are five volumes in the series, each one drawn by a different illustrator. :)

Recommended for ages 16 and up. Some sexual content.