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IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT vol. 4 by Motoro Mase (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

January 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“Motoro Mase’s ‘IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT’ definitely gives us a unique perspective on a alternate Japan where the government instills fear of death as a means to obtain a peaceful society. Vol. 4 focuses on a teacher and a mother who can’t bare to leave her young child.   “Ikigami – The Ultimate Limit” is absolutely captivating with its well-done artwork and storyline. A gripping manga series that is definitely worth recommending!”

Image courtesy of © 2005 Motoro MASE. All Rights Reserved.

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MANGA TITLE: IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT Vol. 4

STORY AND ART BY: Motoro Mase

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Shogakukan, Inc.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media, LLC/Shojo Beat

RATED: M for Mature (Parent Advisory – Explicit Content)

Dear Citizen:

Thank you for your loyalty. You’ve no doubt noticed that the world is a trouble place. People are apathetic, lazy, unmotivated. You’ve probably asked yourself WHY ISN’T ANYTHING BEING DONE TO STOP THIS SYSTEMATIC DECLINE?

Rest assured that measures are being taken. Beginning immediately, we will randomly select a different citizen each day who will be killed within 24 hours of notification. We believe this will help remind all people how precious life is and how important it is to be a productive, active member of society.

Thank you for your continued attention and your cooperation and participation…

Congratulations! You have been randomly selected by the government…to DIE in 24 Hours!

Motoro Mase’s ‘IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT’ definitely gives us a unique perspective on a alternate Japan where the government instills fear of death as a means to obtain a peaceful society.

The manga series focuses on the character of Fujimoto who works for the government and his job is to notify people with an “Ikigami” notice that they will die within 24 hours.

The premise of the story is that when a citizen enters elementary school and receives their immunization shots, the National Welfare Immunization is given. Among the immunization shots given to children, 0.01 percent of the shots contain a special nano-capsule. About 1 in 1,000 citizens are injected with the capsule and when they are between 18-24 years old, the capsule ruptures on a predetermined date and they person will automatically die.

The Japanese government believes that because citizens never know who has been injected with the capsule, they all grow up wondering if they will be the one that dies and so, this forces the individual to take life more seriously and become socially productive.

Since the law for the National Welfare Immunization was passed, crime and suicides in Japan have fallen and the Japanese concern of birth rates have increased (note: In reality, Japan is concerned that their population is shrinking as many couples are not wanting to produce offspring and worry that Japan will not be productive in the future unless this is changed now. Also, the crime and suicide problems of Japan have steadily grown).

In the nature that someone does die, their family of the deceased is paid a pension but if by any chance, the person who commits a crime after receiving their Ikigami, the family will be denied the pension but also will be liable financially towards the crime committed by the deceased and in effect, will be ostracized by the community and will be forced to relocate.

Also, if anyone voices their disdain publicly about the National Welfare Immunization, they will also be dealt with and will be injected with the capsule.

In the first volume, we got to see how various people react after they have received an ikigami. Some who try to exact revenge and others who try to make things that were wrong, right again. But most of all, we see a young man named Fujimoto who started on the job and has concerns about the job he does (delivering ikigami to people) and seeing how various people have responded to the the program and also to see how co-workers behave because of the program. He often wonders if this law is working? Especially when good people are dying because of the capsule? Is it a fair law?

In the second volume, the main character Fujimoto continues to think about his position in his job but also believes he is a “harbinger of death” but it starts to creep into his personal life because he must remain on call and making sure the people who are receiving the ikigami (or their family members) are at home when delivered. So, much that his girlfriend is upset at him for his dedication to the job. But such outburst can lead to her death and the only way he can protect her life (since any public comments against the “ikigami” program is illegal) is to literally break up with her and possibly not get into any relationships.  In volume three, Fujimoto gets in trouble by trying to help someone who has received an ikigami.

In volume four, Fujimoto starts to wonder how his other co-workers especially his boss deals with their role at work but also feeling a bit of jealousy when he sees Dr. Kubo with a boyfriend.

“Episode 7: The Last Lesson” focuses on a school teacher named Mr. Tamura.  He’s a good teacher and cares about the kids and lives by the motto of “children can do no harm” and that the problems of these children are due to bad parenting and bad educators.

But in his class, Tamura has a student named Mitsuru Yoneda and how they are told that he runs the class from the shadows.  Part of the problem at Musashigawa Third Junior High School is that the principal, Mr. Kawashima does whatever the parents or board says and no matter what happens, it’s always the teacher’s fault.

But Tamura, being as confident as he is as a teacher, feels that he has done well.  Unbeknown to him is that the troublesome student Mitsuru can’t stand Mr. Tamura’s niceness and his motto of “children can do no harm”, so he hatches a plan with other students that will get him fired and ruin his reputation.  To make things worse, Mr. Tamura has been delivered an ikigami.

In “Episode 8 – A Place of Peace”, Yuta is a grown up 25-year-old with a young wife and daughter.  Unfortunately, the family is in extreme debt because of Ryu’s plunking of all their money towards his drift car.  It’s so bad that collector’s are calling and even threatening the family.  For Nao, the bright spot of their relationship is her young daughter Mina but she has severe asthma.  One day while Mina has an asthma attack, she needed to be taken to the hospital but her husband refused to have them in his car because his car is his escape from reality and also he removed the car seats for his racing.

Seeing how irresponsible her husband is, Nao gets further bad news when she receives an ikigami.  Knowing how her daughter needs her mother and how her husband is immature and too irresponsible to take of Mina, Nao must make a difficult decision on what to do with Mina.

“IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT” vol. 4 is another excellent volume in the series.

Now four volumes into the manga series, I’m not sure if there is an ending especially with Fujimoto.  I’m starting to think more and more that Mase’s inclusion of Fujimoto is to show how these employees who deliver the ikigami’s bare some suffering as well as they are literally the harbinger of death.

In this case, in volume four, Fujimoto learns how an ikigami had affected a good teacher in the worse possible way and in the second story, the difficulty of delivering an ikigami to a young mother with a child.  It’s absolutely heartbreaking but that’s how life is in this version of Japan.

Each story, there is a moral issue of how one spends their final day of life before they die but also how it affects the people around them.  This latest volume was the first that dealt with a mother and a child and no one wants to see a parent being taken from their young child but the ikigami has changed the face of Japan and even put some worry into the Japanese of not having children until after the age of 25 because no one knows who is going to die.

From Mase’s character designs and artwork to the overall storyline, this is definitely a manga series that is worth recommending.  It’s a serious manga series but just so captivating to see how people deal with death.  Again, with four volumes I don’t know if the series will continue to present two stories and Fujimoto’s conscience of delivering the ikigami’s because I wonder if there is any conclusion to this manga series.  At first I wondered if Fujimoto’s conscience would help him try to stop the National Welfare Immunization but seeing his position and also, he’s not exactly the strongest of characters nor is he in a leadership role.  I guess we”ll see where Motoro Mase will be taking the story in upcoming volumes but so far, the first four volumes are quite involving and just a gripping series.

“Ikigami – The Ultimate Limit” is highly recommended!

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OISHINBO A la Carte – The Joy of Rice by Tetsuya Kariya and Akira Hanasaki (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

November 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The award winning manga that has captured the attention of Japanese readers since 1983 and is still ongoing today.  ‘OISHINBO A la Carte – The Joy of Rice” is another enjoyable release and features more on Japan’s rich history of rice and its importance to the people of Japan.   Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © Tetsu KARIYA and Akira HANASAKI.  All Rights Reserved.

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MANGA TITLE: OISHINBO A la Carte – The Joy of Rice

STORY AND ART BY: Story by Tetsu Kariya, Art by Akihara Hanasaki

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Shogakukan, Inc.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media, LLC

RATED: T for Teen

Released: November 2009

As part of the celebrations for its 100th anniversary, the publishers of the Tozai News have commissioned the creation of the “Ultimate Menu”, a model meal embodying the pinnacle of Japanese cuisine.  This all-important task has been entrusted to journalist Yamaoka Shiro, an inveterate cynic who possesses zero initiative – but also an incredibly refined palate and an encyclopedic knowledge of food.

Each volume of Oishinbo follows Yamaoka and his colleagues through another adventure of their quest for the Ultimate Menu.  Now, the highlights from the hundred-plus volume series have been selected and compiled into A la Carte Editions: bite-sized chunks of story arranged by subject that add up to a full-course manga meal!

In this volume of Oishinbo, Yamaoka and company look into the single most essential food in Japanese cuisine: rice.  Cultivated for millenia, a staple meal in itself and the basis of countless other dishes, rice is an important component not only of the Japanese kitchen but also of Japanese culture.  When Yamaoka is asked by Tozai’s head chef for help coming up with a new rice dish, what starts out as a simple culinary request rapidly grows into a disquisition into the past, present and future of Japan’s food culture.

The long running manga “Oishinbo” (which means “The Gourmet”) is a popular best-selling manga series published by Shogakukan which has been ongoing since 1983.  The series have sold 1.2 million copies per volume annually and have sold more than 100 million volumes as of Jan. 2009.

Written by Tetsu Kariya and art by Akira Hanasaki, the series has won multiple awards and has had a successful anime TV series run from 1988 through 1992.  And now the series is being released in the United States from Viz Media through their Viz Signature.   Because there have been so many volumes, Viz has selected chapters from the popular manga and will separate each volume release by cuisine topic.

So, far the following manga been released:

  • Oishinbo A la Carte – The making of food, beverages and utensils
  • Oishinbo – Sake
  • Oishinbo A la Carte – Ramen & Gyoza
  • Oishinbo A la Carte – Fish, Sushi and Sashimi
  • Oishinbo A la Carte – Vegetables

“Oishinbo” revolves around the employees of the newspaper Tozai News with its employees commissioned to create the “Ultimate Menu”, a model meal that embodies the pinnacle of Japanese cuisine.  Both Shiro Yamaoka and Yuko Kurita are in charge of the project and throughout each chapter, the series is broken down to several types of dishes or food related items and how each dish is created.

Meanwhile, his father, who Shiro has had an estranged relationship for years after his mother’s death, the world renown founder and director of prestigious Gourmet Club and Japanese pottery creator, Kaibara Yuzan heads the “Supreme Menu” for a rival newspaper. So, both Shiro and his father are known to butt heads many times.  With Kaibara looking at his son as a person with a lacking knowledge of cuisine but Shiro, never to stand down against his father, proving that he knows more than his father thinks.

The characters featured in “OISHINBO” are:

Shiro Yamaoka – A journalist for Tozai News who knows his food and how things are created but he is estranged from his father, a prominent artist and founder and director of the Gourmet Club.  He despises his father because of the death of his mother.  Yamaoka was trained from a young age by his father, Kaibara.

Kaibara Yuzan – The father of Shiro Yamaoka is a prominent artist and founder and director of the Gourmet Club.  Because of his prominent stature, all restaurants fear him and thus feel the need to create perfect food for him.  Estranged from his son Shiro and despises him for destroying all of his paintings and pottery worth tens or hundreds of million yen.  A man widely revered for his sense of taste and feared for his ferocious temper.    He heads the “Supreme Menu” project for Teito Times, rival paper to the Tozai News that his son works for.

Yuko Kurita – Knowledgeable about food and partner of Shiro.  She learns a lot from him.

Daizo Ohara – Publisher of Tozai News

Hideo Tanimura – Director of Tozai News Art & Culture Department

Tomio Tomii - Deputy Director working under Tanimura

Tojin Toyama - A legendary ceramicist and gourmet

Mantaro Kyogoku – A wealthy businessman and gourmet

Seiiichi Okaboshi – Chef/owner of a sushi shop and Shiro’s local hangout

Tokuo Nakugawa – The head chef for Gourmet Club

For this latest volume of “OISHINBO A la Carte”, the stories are broken up in chapters that relate to rice.  Here is a spoiler-less summary of each chapter:

  1. Recipe: Scallop Rice - Featured in one of the stories of this volume, a recipe featuring photos (in color) of how to prepare scallop rice.
  2. FIRST COURSE – A Remarkable Mediocrity - An earlier story featuring Kyogoku Mantaro (The wealthy businessman), as Tozai news tries to get the millionaire to lend his Renoir for the Impressionist Art Exhibition through food but accidentally offending him.  Can Yamaoka win him back?
  3. SECOND COURSE – Brown Rice vs. White Rice (Part One) - A group of the judo women’s team must incorporate brown rice into their diet but they dislike it.
  4. SECOND COURSE – Brown Rice vs. White Rice (Part Two) -  Yamaoka must show Takeko Miyamoto, supervisor of the Buiku Women’s College Judo Team of why their version of brown rice is not good.
  5. THIRD COURSE – LIVE RICE – Yamaoka try to help Arakawa-san how to cook rice (using a rice mill) to please her boyfriend’s mother.
  6. FOURTH COURSE – Companions of Rice – Yamaoka must convince the deputy prime minister why they should not import rice to Japan.
  7. FIFTH COURSE – The Matsutake Rice of the Sea – Mantaro has a bet with his friend/rival on who can cook the best Matsutake rice but something bad happens to his friend.
  8. Oishinbo Day-by-Day – Tetsuya Kariya talks about the act of eating rice and comparisons of Japan, Chinese and South Korea when it comes to eating certain food with rice.
  9. SIXTH COURSE – No Mixing – Tozai News chef and employees want to include mixed rice into the menu but the publisher Oharo Daizo is against it.
  10. SEVENTH COURSE – The Season for Oysters- Yamaoka must prove to his boss why oysters are better in the Summer and also learning of scallops with rice.
  11. EIGHTH COURSE – Rice Ball Match (Part One) – The Ultimate Menu (Tozai News) challenges the Supreme Menu (Teito Times)  in a rice ball competition.
  12. EIGHTH COURSE – Rice Ball Match (Part Two) – The Ultimate Menu (Tozai News) showcases their rice ball recipes to the judges.
  13. EIGHTH COURSE – Rice Ball Match (Part Three) – The Supreme Menu (Teito Times) showcases their rice ball to the judges.

Also, included at the end of the main chapters is a “Notes on the Text” which explains certain panels and meaning of certain Japanese words.

I absolutely love “OISHINBO A la Carte”.  Any fans of Japanese cuisine can also read this manga and just be amazed of how enjoyable, how witty, how smart each story is written.  Not only are the readers engrossed by the characters, especially the rivalry between Shiro and his father Kaibara Yuzan, you really learn about the Japanese perspective of cuisine and also preparation.

With “OISHINBO A la Carte – The Joy of Rice”, this latest volume is quite interesting as in previous volumes, there was more focus on competitions between Tozai News (Ultimate Menu) versus Teito Times (Supreme Menu).  But in this volume, with rice being so important in the Japanese diet, there is more focus on the history of rice in Japan and its importance.  We get to learn about Yamaoka and Japanese who worry about importation of rice, we learn about the differences between short-grain and long-grain rice and also how the environment is hurting certain ingredients that Japanese loved with rice but is now becoming rare in today’s society.

The latest volume of “Oishinbo A la Carte” was once again enjoyable.  Just to remind everyone that because the manga series has been around since 1983, there was just no way the complete series could be released in the US.  So, Viz Media chose to separate each volume based on a food item/ingredient or beverage.  So, you do miss out on the romantic storyline but nevertheless, the focus is on the food and for the most part, each volume is informative, educational and also very enjoyable to read.

Overall, each volume of “OISHINBO A la Carte” has been magnificent and this latest volume is just as enjoyable as the previous releases.  Highly recommended!

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OISHINBO A la Carte – Vegetables by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

September 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

“The award winning manga that has captured the attention of Japanese readers since 1983 and is still ongoing today.  ‘OISHINBO A la Carte – Vegetables” is another enjoyable release and I absolutely love this manga series.  For those who are passionate about Japanese cuisine and are looking for a manga series that is well-written, witty but also careful on the details of Japanese cuisine, this manga series is just what you are looking for.   ‘Highly recommended!”

(C) Image courtesy of Tetsu KARIYA and Akira HANASAKI.  All Rights Reserved.

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MANGA TITLE: OISHINBO A la Carte – Vegetables

STORY AND ART BY: Story by Tetsu Kariya, Art by Akihara Hanasaki

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Shogakukan, Inc.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media, LLC

RATED: T for Teen

Released: September 2009

As part of the celebrations for its 100th anniversary, the publishers of the Tozai News have commissioned the creation of the “Ultimate Menu”, a model meal embodying the pinnacle of Japanese cuisine.  This all-important task has been entrusted to journalist Yamaoka Shiro, an inveterate cynic who possesses zero initiative – but also an incredibly refined palate and an encyclopedic knowledge of food.

Each volume of Oishinbo follows Yamaoka and his colleagues through another adventure of their quest for the Ultimate Menu.  Now, the highlights from the hundred-plus volume series have been selected and compiled into A la Carte Editions: bite-sized chunks of story arranged by subject that add up to a full-course manga meal!

In this volume, Weekly Time magazine sets up a series of culinary battles between the Tozai News’s “Ultimate Menu”, represented by Yamaoka and the Teito Times’s “Supreme Menu” represented by Kaibara Yuzan, Yamaoka’s father and nemesis.  The ingredient this time is vegetables, specifically cabbages and turnips.  Who will win the Vegetable Showdown? Later, Yamaoka and Kurita help Tomil’ss on get over his hatred of eggplant, and patch a rift between lovers using the power of asparagus.

The long running manga “Oishinbo” (which means “The Gourmet”) is a popular best-selling manga series published by Shogakukan which has been ongoing since 1983.  The series have sold 1.2 million copies per volume annually and have sold more than 100 million volumes as of Jan. 2009.

Written by Tetsu Kariya and art by Akira Hanasaki, the series has won multiple awards and has had a successful anime TV series run from 1988 through 1992.  And now the series is being released in the United States from Viz Media through their Viz Signature.   Because there have been so many volumes, Viz has selected chapters from the popular manga and will separate each volume release by cuisine topic.

So, far the following manga been released:

  • Oishinbo A la Carte – The making of food, beverages and utensils
  • Oishinbo – Sake
  • Oishinbo A la Carte – Ramen & Gyoza
  • Oishinbo A la Carte – Fish, Sushi and Sashimi

“Oishinbo” revolves around the employees of the newspaper Tozai News with its employees commissioned to create the “Ultimate Menu”, a model meal that embodies the pinnacle of Japanese cuisine.  Both Shiro Yamaoka and Yuko Kurita are in charge of the project and throughout each chapter, the series is broken down to several types of dishes or food related items and how each dish is created.  Meanwhile, his father, who Shiro has had an estranged relationship for years after his mother’s death, the world renown founder and director of prestigious Gourmet Club and Japanese pottery creator, Kaibara Yuzan heads the “Supreme Menu” for a rival newspaper. So, both Shiro and his father are known to butt heads many times.  With Kaibara looking at his son as a person with a lacking knowledge of cuisine but Shiro, never to stand down against his father, proving that he knows more than his father thinks.

The characters featured in “OISHINBO” are:

Shiro Yamaoka – A journalist for Tozai News who knows his food and how things are created but he is estranged from his father, a prominent artist and founder and director of the Gourmet Club.  He despises his father because of the death of his mother.  Yamaoka was trained from a young age by his father, Kaibara.

Kaibara Yuzan – The father of Shiro Yamaoka is a prominent artist and founder and director of the Gourmet Club.  Because of his prominent stature, all restaurants fear him and thus feel the need to create perfect food for him.  Estranged from his son Shiro and despises him for destroying all of his paintings and pottery worth tens or hundreds of million yen.  A man widely revered for his sense of taste and feared for his ferocious temper.    He heads the “Supreme Menu” project for Teito Times, rival paper to the Tozai News that his son works for.

Yuko Kurita – Knowledgeable about food and partner of Shiro.  She learns a lot from him.

Daizo Ohara – Publisher of Tozai News

Hideo Tanimura – Director of Tozai News Art & Culture Department

Tomio Tomii - Deputy Director working under Tanimura

Tojin Toyama - A legendary ceramicist and gourmet

Mantaro Kyogoku – A wealthy businessman and gourmet

Seiiichi Okaboshi – Chef/owner of a sushi shop and Shiro’s local hangout

Tokuo Nakugawa – The head chef for Gourmet Club

For this latest volume of “OISHINBO A la Carte”, the stories are broken up in chapters that relate to vegetables.  Here is a spoiler-less summary of each chapter:

  1. Recipe: Asparagus with Walnut Dressing and Asparagus Grilled Kobayaki-style
  2. FIRST COURSE – Vegetable Showdown! (Part One) - Kaibara challenges Shiro in a vegetable contest of who can make the best cabbage and radish dish.
  3. FIRST COURSE – Vegetable Showdown! (Part Two) - The second part of the cabbage and radish competition.
  4. FIRST COURSE – Vegetable Showdown! (Part Three) -  The final part of the cabbage and radish competition.
  5. SECOND COURSE – The Joy of a New Potato – The gang try to help out a President of the Misaki Group who’s life is thrown upside down due to failures in the real estate market.
  6. Oishinbo Day-by-Day – Tetsuya Kariya writes about the connection between hotspots and vegetables.
  7. THIRD COURSE – The Bean Sprout Kid – A child who is fatherless is teasted by other kids and called a bean sprout and Shiro who feels bad for the kid, decides to help him.
  8. FOURTH COURSE – Good Eggplant, Bad Eggplant – Tomii Tomio’s son Hitoshi and Inspector Nakamatsu both dislike eggplant and Shiro decides to show them that eggplant can be delicious.
  9. FIFTH COURSE – The Story of Vegetables, Now and Then – When Uda Yoshio (a famous author and gourmet) and Mizukawa Yoriko (an environmental specialist) butt heads on the environment, the two are at odds with each other.
  10. SIXTH COURSE – The Breath of Spring - Former couple Ikuta Shoko and popular ceramic builder Yoshino Koichi meet up with each other many years later and both see how her passion for food and his passion for ceramics work great with each other.
  11. SEVENTH COURSE – A Suprising Taste (Part One) – Zento Motors needs land owned by Kyogoku-san but in order to win him over, it must be by a good dish.  So, Zento Motors asks for Shiro’s help.
  12. SEVENTH COURSE – A Suprising Taste (Part Two) – The second part as the President of Zento Motors (with Shiro’s help) must please Kyogoku-san with a dish.
  13. EIGHTH COURSE – The Taste of Chicken, The Taste of Carrots – A story about the benefits of organic vegetables vs. vegetables that were raised with pesticides.

Also, included at the end of the main chapters is a “Notes on the Text” which explains certain panels and meaning of certain Japanese words.

I absolutely love “OISHINBO A la Carte”.  Any fans of Japanese cuisine can also read this manga and just be amazed of how enjoyable, how witty, how smart each story is written.  Not only are the readers engrossed by the characters, especially the rivalry between Shiro and his father Kaibara Yuzan, you really learn about the Japanese perspective of cuisine and also preparation.

With “OISHINBO A la Carte – Vegetables”, this latest volume is probably the most debatable as stories focus on vegetables that were grown fresh (organic) and vegetables grown with the use of pesticides.  The stories tend to showcase the perspectives of both who support each side but in the end, the author’s feelings and passion towards organic vegetables is definitely evident in this latest volume.  For the most part, the articles do cover various vegetables and each chapter is quite enjoyable and fun to read.  But some may find the organic vs. conventional (using pesticides) storylines a bit too preachy.

Also, in this volume, we see interesting storylines that relate to Shiro and Yuko’s relationship (or lack of one) but because the chapters do not go by order of manga release but selected chapters, those who want to read a more connected storyline (when it comes to their relationship) will not find it.  As one chapter focuses on his lack of attention to her, another chapter on the romantic rival for Yuko’s affection and then next thing you know, another chapter featuring the two as a married couple.  So, as much as I would love to read of how their relationship develops, but unfortunately, due to the large number of “Oishinbo” chapters, we’re probably not going to see that in the US for now.

But aside from the small quirks I had in this latest volume, its still another enjoyable release of “Oishinbo A la Carte”.  I absolutely enjoyed the vegetable competitions but also indirect recipes of how to prepare certain vegetables, which was very fun to read and wouldn’t mind trying it out the recipes at home.

But overall, each volume of “OISHINBO A la Carte” has been magnificent and just an enjoyable manga series.  I don’t think there have been one chapter in any of the volumes that I found boring or not worth reading.  Definitely recommended!

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PLUTO: Urasawa x Tezuka vol. 005 by Naoki Urasawa (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

September 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

“The latest volume of ‘PLUTO: Urasawa x Tezuka’ features another great robot willing to take on Pluto but also a major revelation of the great robot detective Gesicht!  A more suspenseful volume but  overall, another well-written, well-drawn, enjoyable and captivating volume in the ‘PLUTO’ series from Naoki Urasawa!”

(C) Image courtesy of 2004 Naoki URASAWA/Studio Nuts, Takashi NAGASAKI and Tezuka Productions   All Rights Reserved.

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MANGA TITLE: PLUTO vol. 005: Urasawa x Tezuka

STORY AND ART BY: Naoki Urasawa, Takashi Nagasaki and supervised by Makoto Tezuka with the cooperation of Tezuka Productions.

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Shogakukan, Inc.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media, LLC

RATED: T for Older Teen

Deep into his investigation of the serial murders of the great robots of the world and the former members of the Bora Survey Group, Gesicht discovers the hatred that exists between man and robot.  He also begins to unlock another mystery about a memory of his own that had been locked away and all but forgotten….  Meanwhile, the mighty Hercules is out for revenge and is finally about to take on the mysterious Pluto.

In the first four volumes of “PLUTO”, we learned about a world where robots and humans work together alongside with each other.   In this world, robots are treated (by most) like sentient beings comes a world where the planet has robotic heroes and even police squadrons of human and robot partners.

Of course, it’s not an all perfect world as there are humans who rather not co-exist with the robots.  And someone makes their agenda known when someone has decided to disrupt that peaceful coexistence by destroying the seven great robots and possibly murdering those who protect the rights for robots.

We eventually learn that there are anti-robot hate groups who will do what they can to stop robots (including committing murder).  And despite robots not having emotions, we are starting to see a few of them develop certain emotion(s) that they don’t understand why they are feeling it.  And for the primary character, the great robot Gesicht, will the greatest detective be able to stop the murders of robots and humans and find out who is behind Pluto or will he discover something that can change the course of his investigation?

This is the basis of the story “PLUTO”, a reimagining of “Astro Boy – The Greatest Robot on Earth” written by manga great Naoki Urasawa (“Yawara”, “Monster”, “20th Century Boys” and many more titles) and co-authored by Takashi Nagasaki.  The Astro Boy or Tetsuwan Atom stories are based on the popular works of Osamu Tezuka and with cooperation from Tezuka Productions, this manga project is managed by Makoto Tezuka.

The manga series revolves around the great robot Gesicht, who is a detective.  He is investigating the murders of professors who have supported the cause of the robots but has been taken aback by the elimination of other great robots and the numbers of those still alive are starting to dwindle.

The first volume showed us how the great Mont Blanc and the North No. 2, two of the seven powerful robots in the world were destroyed by an unknown force.  We also learned that several scientists were murdered.  All of them were found dead with antlers next or stuck to their heads.

In the second volume of “PLUTO”, another great robot is destroyed and Gesicht, the investigation robot is racing to find out who is doing the killings.  But this time he has shared his memories with the boy super robot known as Atom.

In the third volume of “PLUTO”, we are introduced to Atom’s sister Uran, another great robot who is much different than Atom (who tends to like being treated like a regular boy and has emotions that the other great robots do not have).  Uran is able to feel the pain of animals and so she is always trying to save them and is often scolded by Atom for missing class, because she walks on the beat of her own drum.

In the fourth volume of “PLUTO”, Atom confronts the nemesis and needless to say, we learn major revelations and a major tragedy takes place.

Here is a brief summary of each chapter in vol. 5 (short summaries, no spoilers):

ACT 32 – THE SCARS OF MEMORY – Gesicht must take Adolf and his family to a safe house.  Meanwhile, Adolf is told to eliminate Gesicht.

ACT 33 – VICTORS, SAGES AND MORTALS - The great robot Epsilon tries to convince the great robot Hercules from fighting the one responsible of killing off their comrades.

ACT 34 – GOD’S CHOICE – Hercules vs. Pluto

ACT 35 – GESICHT, DO YOU COPY? – For some reason, Gesicht is starting to have memories of the past when he joined the serial child robot abduction and destruction investigation.

ACT 36 – PURSUIT OF HATE - Gesicht tries to protect Adolf and his family but someone is closely following them and wanting to kill them.

ACT 37 – SAD VISITOR - Uran is trying to deal with the death of her brother.

ACT 38 – THE CHAOS OF SIX BILLION – Professor Tenma makes a decision to bring a great robot that was killed by Pluto back to life.

ACT 39 – THE IMPRISONED KING – Gesicht goes to visit the alleged mastermind of the robot serial killings.

“PLUTO: Urasawa x Tezuka” vol. 005 is a volume that takes things back to the character of Gesicht and his investigation of the murdering of the robots.  But also Gesicht starting to realize an emotion that he has and thought is not possible.   Robots are programmed not to hurt humans but somehow, we start to see that although Gesicht is a great robot dedicated to upholding the law, there is something about him that he is trying to discover that is quite off.

Meanwhile, the battle of Pluto vs. Hercules is another battle which may come to help Gesicht in his investigation.  But the big surprise is the possible return of a fallen great robot.

Where this volume focuses more on the investigation, there is quite a bit of action aside from the battle but also Gesicht trying to do all he can to protect a family from being killed.  And that despite what emotions he’s starting to discover himself, he still upholds the law and will protect even those who despise robots.

If you have invested your time in reading the first four volumes, volume five is definitely setting the reader up for something even greater for the sixth volume.  One thing that Urasawa is quite successful in this series (and also his “20th Century Boys” manga series) is effectively create a story that is well-written but also artwork that shows detail in emotion.  May it be the fear, anguish, happiness or even the lust of killing, he manages to capture the emotion quite well with his character designs and this latest volume is one of those volumes in which he is able to showcase not just fear on the human side but also emotions on the robotic side.

If you have not read any of the volumes of “PLUTO: Urasawa x Tezuka” but are curious, this is one manga series that is worth owning, worth reading and trust me you won’t be disappointed.  Another highly recommended volume of “PLUTO”!

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IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT vol. 2 by Motoro Mase (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

September 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

“Motoro Mase’s ‘IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT’ definitely gives us a unique perspective on a alternate Japan where the government instills fear of death as a means to obtain a peaceful society.  Vol. 2 is heartbreaking but also captivating with its well-done artwork and storyline.  A gripping manga series that is definitely worth recommending!”

Image courtesy of © 2005 Motoro MASE.  All Rights Reserved.

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MANGA TITLE: IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT Vol. 2

STORY AND ART BY: Motoro Mase

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Shogakukan, Inc.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media, LLC/Shojo Beat

RATED: M for Mature (Parent Advisory – Explicit Content)

Dear Citizen:

Thank you for your loyalty.  You’ve no doubt noticed that the world is a trouble place.  People are apathetic, lazy, unmotivated.  You’ve probably asked yourself WHY ISN’T ANYTHING BEING DONE TO STOP THIS SYSTEMATIC DECLINE?

Rest assured that measures are being taken.   Beginning immediately, we will randomly select a different citizen each day who will be killed within 24 hours of notification.  We believe this will help remind all people how precious life is and how important it is to be a productive, active member of society.

Thank you for your continued attention and your cooperation and participation…

Congratulations!  You have been randomly selected by the government…to DIE in 24 Hours!

Motoro Mase’s ‘IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT’ definitely gives us a unique perspective on a alternate Japan where the government instills fear of death as a means to obtain a peaceful society.

The manga series focuses on the character of Fujimoto who works for the government and his job is to notify people with an “Ikigami” notice that they will die within 24 hours.

The premise of the story is that when a citizen enters elementary school and receives their immunization shots, the National Welfare Immunization is given.  Among the immunization shots given to children, 0.01 percent of the shots contain a special nano-capsule.  About 1 in 1,000 citizens are injected with the capsule and when they are between 18-24 years old, the capsule ruptures on a predetermined date and they person will automatically die.

The Japanese government believes that because citizens never know who has been injected with the capsule, they all grow up wondering if they will be the one that dies and so, this forces the individual to take life more seriously and become socially productive.

Since the law for the National Welfare Immunization was passed, crime and suicides in Japan have fallen and the Japanese concern of birth rates have increased (note: In reality, Japan is concerned that their population is shrinking as many couples are not wanting to produce offspring and worry that Japan will not be productive in the future unless this is changed now.  Also, the crime and suicide problems of Japan have steadily grown).

In the nature that someone does die, their family of the deceased is paid a pension but if by any chance, the person who commits a crime after receiving their Ikigami, the family will be denied the pension but also will be liable financially towards the crime committed by the deceased and in effect, will be ostracized by the community and will be forced to relocate.

Also, if anyone voices their disdain publicly about the National Welfare Immunization, they will also be dealt with and will be injected with the capsule.

In the first volume, we got to see how various people react after they have received an ikigami.  Some who try to exact revenge and others who try to make things that were wrong, right again.  But most of all, we see a young man named Fujimoto who started on the job and has concerns about the job he does (delivering ikigami to people) and seeing how various people have responded to the the program and also to see how co-workers behave because of the program.  He often wonders if this law is working?  Especially when good people are dying because of the capsule?  Is it a fair law?

In volume 2, Fujimoto continues to think about his position in his job but also believes he is a “harbinger of death” but it starts to creep into his personal life because he must remain on call and making sure the people who are receiving the ikigami (or their family members) are there when delivered.  So, much that his girlfriend is upset at him for his dedication to the job.  But such outburst can lead to her death and the only way he can protect her life (since any public comments against the “ikigami” program is illegal) is to literally break up with her and possibly not get into any relationships.

The first person focused on volume 2 is a man named Takeshi Katsumura who works for a media production company for years and has waited for the time to get the recognition he deserves in order to become a director and now he is given a chance.  Katsumura is somewhat of a mess.  He takes a drug known as ateromin which is known to extend life but other drugs to help him do his job.

Katsumura lives with a woman named Kazusa Teranishi, a woman who loves Katsumura more than anything but will do what she can to hurt him because of his drug use, and hoping her sharp words will prevent him from doing drugs.  Even if it means destroying his stash of drugs.  But life changes for this couple when Fujimoto comes and delivers an ikigami.

The second person the second volume focuses on is a young man named Takebe who works at a nursing home and is known for his work in helping the elderly, especially a woman named Mrs. Asakura.  She has not really talked, nor walked for many years but her time with Takebe has shown quite a bit of improvement.  As for Takebe, he is determined to help Mrs. Asakura walk again and has big dreams of becoming a certified nursing care worker.

Takebe is a young man that has given so much into his work and has big dreams but what happens when Takebe receives an ikigami.

“IKIGAMI – THE ULTIMATE LIMIT” vol. 2 is another excellent volume in the series.

Part of the enjoyability of the series is how Mase is able to create this character development for a person who receives an ikigami and makes you so involved in their storyline and then makes you think of how the ikigami affects an individual.  It’s one thing when a criminal or delinquent receives an ikigami but when a person who is so good with people receives it, it’s definitely heartbreaking.

In fact, both storylines are quite heartbreaking as one deals with a loving couple who have their own set of problems but how tragic that storyline ends is quite surprising, while the second is just a storyline that makes you witness a person who is so kindhearted and one that truly doesn’t deserve an ikigami but yet, tries to come face-to-face with it.

What is more interesting is to see how Fujimoto is slowly starting to question his job and if the ikigami does help society at all.  It’s definitely going to be interesting to see how future volumes turn out.  So, far “Ikigami – The Ultimate Limit” has been gripping but definitely captivating.

From Mase’s character designs and artwork to the overall storyline, this is definitely a manga series that is worth recommending.

“Ikigami – The Ultimate Limit” is highly recommended!

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Manga Review: Chihayafuru by Yuki Suetsugu

July 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

In a recent manga review by Kumi Matsumaru for the Daily Yomiuri, Kumi recently reviewed “Chihayafuru” by Yuki Suetsugu. Here is an excerpt from that review.

Chihayafuru, the title of a manga by Yuki Suetsugu, may be a word even many Japanese will not immediately understand. It is the first word of a poem by Ariwara no Narihira, a waka poet and aristocrat who lived in the late ninth century. Chihayafuru, also written as chihayaburu, is a word that indicates something to do with God will immediately follow. The poem is one of 100 works in the poetry collection Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, which was compiled by poet and critic Fujiwara no Teika in the Kamakura period (1192-1333).

Chihayafuru revolves around a lighthearted girl named Chihaya Ayase who enters the competitive word of a traditional Japanese card game based on the 100 poems. She becomes fascinated with what she had first regarded as nothing more than a pleasant pastime after meeting her new classmate Arata Wataya, a boy who is an an excellent player, when they are in the sixth grade of primary school.

Chihaya had long believed there was nothing special about her, and her dream was to see her attractive older sister succeed in her modeling job. But through exchanges with the rather taciturn Arata, Chihaya discovers a passion for the card competition and hopes to become the “queen” of the card players’ world.

The game is played with 200 cards, half of which have all five lines of a poem written on them and the other half of which have only the last two lines. The cards with the endings of poems are spread out on the floor, and the first lines of a poem are read out by a reader called a dokushu. The players compete to be the first to snatch up the card bearing the concluding lines of the poem.

The manga, which has been running in Be-Love magazine since last year, shows us not only how Chihaya is infatuated with the game, but also how she learns friendship and companionship through it.

Moyasimon manga review

July 11, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

In the latest manga review for the Daily Yomiuri by Christoph Mark, Mark reviews “Moyasimon”.  Here is an excerpt of his review:

Imagine, if you will, being able to see even the tiniest of bacteria with your naked eye. Imagine if you could even hear those microscopic organisms talk, speaking of the horrors they have planned. Could you even function as a living being? And if people discovered your ability, would they try to use it to their advantage?

This is the life of Tadayasu Sawaki, the protagonist in the Tezuka Osamu Award-winning Moyasimon and a new freshman at Bo Nogyo Daigaku. (The name literally means A Certain Agriculture University.) The son of a bean-sprout farmer, he has the unique ability to see and distinguish between bacteria, a fact he hopes to hide from all but his closest friends. On his first day of school, Sawaki and childhood friend Kei Yuki, the extremely feminine-looking son of a sake brewer, pay a visit to Prof. Keizo Itsuki, an old friend of Sawaki’s father. The kind-hearted yet strange professor knows of Sawaki’s ability and plans to use it to further his research into fermented foods for use in terraforming.

From the get-go, Sawaki and company find themselves under the tutelage of Itsuki, who regularly subjects his students to taste tests of the world’s stinkiest foods, including a stingray fermented with its own urine, a stuffed seal that has been fermented underground and any number of other rancid rations. The students also fall in with two troublemaking sophomores who are experts in sake brewing, including by methods that require the rice to be chewed before production.

Be sure, author Masayuki Ishikawa is not merely out to disgust his readership; the often funny storyline–which is just as focused on the young Sawaki trying to adjust to a rather strange campus life–is aimed at enlightening the reader about agriculture in general and how microorganisms in particular affect our day-to-day lives, for good or bad.

manga review: Reiko the Zombie Shop

May 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

In a recent manga review for the Daily Yomiuri, Stephen Taylor wrote about Reiko the Zombie Shop.  Here is an excerpt from his review:

Death. It comes to everyone, and with it go our secrets, never to be resurrected. Unless your kin employs the services of Reiko the Zombie Shop.

Rei Mikamoto’s gloriously gory tales of necromancy and horror fully deserve to be called graphic novels, as very little is left to the reader’s imagination in the six volumes available in English.

Reiko Himezono is a high school student with the ability to raise the dead and get answers regarding the circumstances surrounding their deaths–straight from the corpse’s mouth.

But in Volume 1, Reiko warns that her services do not come risk-free.

“If someone dies violently…or suffers from any pent-up guilt or rage, there’s a chance they could go berserk,” she warns.

Of course, we’re in zombie territory here, and the more you read, the more disgusting the undead become.

Many of the characters meet their demise in gruesome fashion, with dismemberment and disemboweling commonplace in Reiko’s world. Mikamoto writes of Act 20, in which victims are forced to eat their own entrails, that, “I wanted to create something really scary–I mean terrifying, not just gory…but I only got letters telling me that it was ‘revolting.'” Never has public opinion been more accurate.

Apart from Reiko, other characters include her older twin sister, Riruka, whose aim is to turn the world into a zombie-filled paradise, and Saki Yurikawa, a serial killer. Saki is responsible for the murder of 29 girls in the town of Shiraike and is Reiko’s deadly foe throughout the series.

manga review: Himitsu no Akko-Chan

April 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

In a recent manga review by Kumi Matsumaru, Kumi writes about “Himitsu no Akko-chan”.  Here is an excerpt from her review:

Mangaka Fujio Akatsuka, who died last year at the age of 72, is known for his many manga hits such as Tensai-Bakabon (Genius Bakabon), Osomatsu-kun and Himitsu no Akko-chan (Akko-chan’s Secret). Himitsu no Akko-chan Kanzen-ban (Akko-chan’s Secret, unabridged version) is the first-ever collection of all the episodes of Himitsu no Akko-chan originally published in Shueisha Inc.’s monthly comic magazine Ribon in 1962-69.

According to Kawade Shobo Shinsha, Publishers, which put out the four-volume collection, it compiled the works to express the original flavor of the manga. The book is based on vintage copies of Ribon magazine, as the original artwork for these episodes was lost when massive alterations were made to the manga’s story setting, character designs and other aspects beginning when Himitsu no Akko-chan was adapted into a TV animation in 1969.

The manga revolves around Atsuko “Akko-chan” Kagami, a mischievous primary school girl. She tries to solve various problems, often trivial, for herself and her friends by using a magical mirror that can transform her into anything she wishes.

In the TV animation, Akko-chan is transformed when she says the magic words, “Tekumaku mayakon tekumaku mayakon” to the mirror, which were given to her by the spirit of the mirror in return for her always cherishing it. The phrase became popular among girls.

But in most of the four-book collection, Akko-chan tells the mirror the name of what she wants to become in reverse to transform herself. When she wants to change herself into Suzuki-san, for example, she says, “N-sa-ki-zu-su ni nare” (Let me be Suzuki-san). The mirror is a lot larger in the early works, although Akko-chan in the anime carries it in a compact.

Going through the slapstick manga, readers will easily recognize it as a work from 40 years ago, and not just because of the relaxed touch of the drawings. For example, Akko-chan carries the large mirror around by wrapping it up in a furoshiki cloth. Among evils she fights against using the magical power is an oshiuri, or door-to-door huckster, which was more common in those days.

The manga also reminds us that Japan was not generally well-off until around 1970, as poverty forms part of the background. Some episodes involve a poor girl who becomes desperate to get medicine for her ailing mother, an abandoned child found in an akichi vacant lot or an elderly man who is sad about being unable to afford a Christmas gift for his granddaughter.

Hot Gimmick vol. 1 (VIZBIG Edition) by Miki Aihara (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

March 21, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

“This is not your usual teenage love triangle, it’s much more!  Well-written, cool artwork with a storyline that is highly addictive, ‘Hot Gimmick’ is highly recommended!”

(C) Image courtesy of Miki AIHARA.  Shogakukan, Inc.   All Rights Reserved.

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MANGA TITLE: Hot Gimmick

STORY AND ART BY: Miki Aihara (相原実貴)

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Shogakukan, Inc.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media, LLC

RATED: T for Older Teen

Miki Aihara turned the manga world upside down with her salacious, outrageous and funny hit series.  If you think being a teenager in America is hard, wait until you read Hot Gimmick.  These Tokyo boys and girls are really messed up!

Manga artist Miki Aihara breakthrough and thought provoking manga series “Hot Gimmick” gets released and it’s a shojo manga that is probably the most dysfunctional but yet highly entertaining storyline that I have ever read.   This Shojo Beat Manga is a “VIZBIG Edition” that features the first three volumes and 552 pages of a storyline that revolves around family, reputation, complex love triangles, friendships and betrayal.

The first volume serves as the introduction of the characters and the living situation of the characters who who live in company housing and revolving around several key families and focuses on a teenage high school girl named Hatsumi Narita.

NARITA FAMILY:

Hatsumi: A bubbly second year student at Takazono High School.  She doesn’t do well in school, gullible but has a wonderful heart but she’s quite insecure.  She feels her younger sister Akane is the attractive one and because of these insecurities, Hatsumi tends to put herself down quite a bit and feels that she is weak and unable to vocalize her emotions.

Akane: A pretty and popular junior high teenager that gets around with guys.  Unfortunately because of her sexual promiscuity, she gets Hatsumi in a bit of trouble.

Shinogu: The oldest son and a college freshman who works many jobs.  Hatsumi adores her older brother.

Hikaru: Hatsumi’s younger brother and is kindergarten.

Shihoko: Hatsumi’s mother who is afraid of the company housing complex queen Mrs. Tachibana and does what she can to make her happy.

Toru: Hatsumi’s father who is always working but plays a major part in the storyline in upcoming volumes.

Hatsumi is the main character of the series.  And the first chapter helps introduce the “Company Housing” situation in Japan of how strict it is for a family and their children to behave.  How certain families where the parents who have better positions are looked at as the people who call the shots and in this storyline, the Tachibana family is most important.  Especially Natsue Tachibana, the queen of the housing complex.

One day, Hatsumi’s promiscuous sister Akane fears that she may be pregnant, so she has Hatsumi buy her a pregnancy test.  Hatsumi really doesn’t want to but she does it because of her sister.  The only problem is that Ryoki Tachibana, the son of the VP of the company that Hatsumi’s father works for catches her buying the pregnancy test.

So, in fear that rumors will spread in the company housing and fear of the repercussions that her parents may receive of their children buying a pregnancy test, she asks Ryoki to not tell anyone.

TACHIBANA FAMILY:

Ryoki: Emotionless, cold-hearted and very intelligent.  Becomes a main character as he makes Hatsumi his slave.

Natsue: The “Queen” of the housing complex.  She knows she has power in the complex and uses it to her advantage to make everyone feel powerless.

Shuichiro: Always busy with work and never home.

We learn that Ryoki and Hatsumi never got a long in grade school.  Ryoki who is the star student has always looked at Hatsumi like a lower person in life because she’s not that smart. In fact, an incident happened when they were younger that makes Hatsumi really dislike Ryoki but Ryoki makes a deal with Hatsumi.  He will not tell his mother about Hatsumi buying the pregnancy test for her sister if she becomes his slave.

Realizing that this is the only thing she can do to preserve her family’s reputation, she agrees.

And Ryoki doesn’t hesitate.  Being a virgin, he wants Hatsumi to be his plaything and use her to make people think he’s getting laid.  Hatsumi doesn’t like how Ryoki is taking this “slave” thing to far and next thing you know, a childhood friend named Azusa Odagiri has come to save her.

ODAGIRI FAMILY:

Azusa: Childhood friend of Hatsumi, now a supermodel but has his reasons why he came back to town and why he’s getting close to Hatsumi.

Minoru: Azusa’s father.  Works overseas and always busy.

Miho: Azusa’s mother who Minoru divorced.

Azusa is currently a popular model in Japan but when he was younger, he would defend Hatsumi from Ryoki and very much was Ryoki’s rival.  This begins a special friendship between Hatsumi and Azusa and they grow closer together.

Of course, Ryoki still has the information about the pregnancy test, so he could care less about Azusa.  If Hatsumi doesn’t want her secret to be revealed, she will have to be his slave.

Thus the first chapter focuses on what appears to be a love triangle between Hatsumi and Ryoki who wants her as his slave and Azusa who seems to like her company and wants to protect Hatsumi from Ryoki.

Volume 2:

In the second volume of “Hot Gimmick”, the rivalry between Ryoki and Azusa increase as both men want Hatsumi’s attention.  Azusa finds out that Ryoki has something on the family and thus makes Hatsumi his girlfriend.  Hatsumi just falls head over heels for Azusa but Ryoki is not going to give up, Hatsumi is his slave and doesn’t care if she’s with Azusa.  He’s determined to make sure that Hatsumi fulfills her obligation as his slave.

Throughout the chapter, you have seen Azusa as this knight of shining armor for Hatsumi.  Always coming to her protection.  Without revealing so much about this volume, you realize that Azusa is not the Knight in Shining Armor.  He’s much worse.  Much worse than even Ryoki.

VOLUME 3:

In the third volume of “Hot Gimmick”, Hatsumi is nearly gang raped as she goes to meet Azusa (in which Ryoki came along to tell him that he’s not giving up his “slave”).  All is revealed of why Azusa has came back and why he wanted a relationship with Hatsumi.  Ryoki who has suddenly become this unexpected hero wants to further his plans of Hatsumi being his slave by having sex with her.

Meanwhile, Hatsumi’s sister Akane wants Ryoki to be her boyfriend and can’t stand her sister getting close to him.  So much that Akane tells Mrs. Tachibana that Hatsumi is getting close to her son.  Also, you learn that Shinogu, Hatsumi’s older brother, has some sort of past with Azusa and he does all he can to make sure his sister doesn’t get close to him.

The third volume of “Hot Gimmick” is quite explosive and what happens in the chapter is so unbelievable messed up that you realize that “Hot Gimmick” is not your typical shoujo manga.  It’s not all about happy teenage life, there are some dark undertones in this drama that will surprise people.

But Miki Aihara does a great job of making sure people are hooked into the storyline and the pacing of the introduction of the many characters are overall well-done.  In fact, I really dig the artwork and how it compliments the story.

If anything, I’m just shocked of the direction that the storyline went in volume 3.  The storyline gets quite serious and “Hot Gimmick” is definitely not your standard teenage love triangle.  It’s more than that.

It’s going to be quite interesting to see how this storyline progresses because it’s an enjoyable, fun, vibrant but at the same time, dark storyline and overall, it’s a graphic novel that will appeal to both to guys and girls.

Overall, I really enjoyed volume 1 and despite its many characters and its complexity.   “Hot Gimmick” is well-drawn, well paced, well-written and overall, highly addictive.

Highly recommended!

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