Category Archives: Manga volume review

DB review: Monster Musume Vol1

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Title: Monster Musume part 1

Publisher: Seven Seas

Author: Okayado

Rating: older teen 

 

I have come across my fair share of harem style but I certainly haven’t come across anything like Monster Musume. This first book, as most first books do, focuses on introducing us to the principle characters in the story. They seem a fun bunch and as with most harem manga the female characters all have some kind of romantic or sexual feelings towards the male character. This leads me to the first issue with this story. For an older teen manga it is very much in your face with sex based fanservice, in fact I have come across tamer mature rated books than this. To its credit Monster Musume is never too serious about its sexy side. A lot of the nudity is of the clothes accidently falling off at in appropriate times and although there is sexual intent from the females it usually means the male character ends up in pain.

 

The other important fact that needs to be taken into account with Monster Musume, is as the title suggests, none of the principle female characters are human. This does leave the reader with the wonder of how a human male could have sex with a completely different species, but that thought doesn’t linger to much as the main feeling I got from this book was fun. A strange thought did occur to me on reading this manga was how English the humour was. It reminded me a lot of comedies shown in the 1970’s and early 1980’s before political correctness got in its way. There is not only sexual comedy but also lashings of slapstick comedy. It is just a fun read and yes it is heavily laden with sexual fanservice, but it has a tongue in cheek feel about it and you can’t help feeling that it will never take itself too seriously.

 

This will be a manga you either love or hate depending on your stance on fanservice, but it is certainly worthy of being looked at as its fun is deeper than that, and it does have interesting things to say on how we view those that are different to us. For those of a certain age I would say that this manga is what the Benny Hill Show would be if it was converted to manga, but with the girls being mythical beasts and not human. It just leaves you with smile and it does make you laugh. It will be interesting to see where this series goes, but personally speaking I liked it a lot.

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DB review: Btooom! vol 6

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Title: Btooom! vol 6

Publisher: Yen Press

Author: Junya Inoue

Rating: Mature

This was a strange book for me. So far I have enjoyed Btooom! I have found it fun and an interesting take on a well used genre, but with book 6 I found that I needed more than one read through before it won me over. This book is the most action packed in terms of battling and initially I didn’t really enjoy that. I enjoy this book for its detailed characterisations, something that can be overlooked in manga. I particularly like the fact that no character is flawless, they all have a side of them that isn’t perfect and for me that kind of characterisation draws me deeper into a book. I personally don’t like hero characters that have no flaws or weaknesses. To me in makes them less human. Likewise the best villains have no morals and can therefore not be bought off with emotions like being compassionate or being noble, even more so if they cause chaos for the sake of causing chaos. With this series everyone has some flaw or has made a choice that they wish they could undo, after all that is what has gotten them into this situation in the first place.

 

The other problem with this particular book in the series is that to me it felt like it was beginning to fall back on the occasional common cliché, something which I hadn’t expected. You see another of my pet hates in stories is when the audience knows more than the character especially when it comes to knowing about other characters. To be fair though it is hard to portray a character that isn’t to be trusted without giving the reader the knowledge that they can’t be trusted. At best all you can do is leave the reader suspicious of a character rather than tell the reader the obvious.

 

It may sound like I don’t particularly like this particular book, but it does some good points especially when it comes to tactics used in fights and battles. Again something I particularly like is a contest, fight or battle where thought has been into the tactics required to win. The more the character has to think about how to win the more I enjoy it.

 

Btooom! book 6 isn’t the worse thing I have ever read, there is plenty of others I could think of, but to me it feels like the weakest in this series so far, but maybe that also comes from the high standards set by the previous five volumes. If this were the first book in the series then I would be disappointed but coming where it does means that it gives me wonderment as to what will follow. This series has the potential to go back to what it does best and I hope it does because this book did leave me feeling flat.

DB review: Btooom! vol 5

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Title: Btooom! vol 5

Publisher: Yen Press

Author: Junya Inoue

Rating: Mature

I will take this opportunity to state that, as you read this, I have yet to watch the Btooom! anime and having read this far I have no intention to either. I may watch after the book series is finished but as the anime has not only stalled and is therefore currently playing catch up to the books, I’d rather read and speaking personally I get so much more out of a book.

I am going to break from my normal way of doing things. If you have read books 1 to 4, then by now you will know the characters. My aim is not to give away too much, but I wanted to review the characters in a little more depth, especially as the first half of book 5 is filling a particular characters background to the story.

Ryouta Sakamoto is a well thought-out lead character. There are some great moments of innocence, especially in the way he views things, early on in the story and his reactions do feel real. One makes me like him as a lead character is that he does seem to have some very human weaknesses and that is something often missed out with other lead characters.

Kiyoshi Taira is also a well thought character. He has many sides to him, some good and some that make you not quite trust him, but he his likeable and jolly. As with Ryouta, Taira comes across as very human and has enough personality to make a reader that he too holds up his end of the story. Sure it’s Ryouta’s story we follow, but no story is strong without a good, believable support cast.

This brings me nicely onto Himiko. Himiko is a most interesting character, initially she is seen as a fanservice element, but the further into the story you go, the more interesting she becomes. As a character her transition is very cleverly handled. It’s just a shame then that to my eyes she is drawn a bit improbably and bizarrely it’s when she is dressed that I think she is drawn worst. Oddly when she isn’t dressed does her body seem a bit more normal, but maybe that’s just me.

Speaking of drawing I do have to praise the artwork in this anime. The scenery is realist and so are all the details within the story’s world. The reader has to also be aware that some scenes are very graphically displayed; this is not a book that shies away from its violence.  Violence is a key word when talking about Btoom! This is a story that centres on a death game and has a mature rating so graphic violence as seen in these books has to be expected. To not expect it is foolish. Also I have read criticism of the bombs used in Btoom! and this seems a bit harsh. Yes each type used has its own limitations and some would seem on paper to not seem that power in terms of explosive force, but this brings the skill of user into play. The weapon is only as effective as the person using it and I like that.

Sure Btoom! isn’t perfect, but  they are only small niggles and overall it is a great read and all I can say is keep up the good work.

DB review: Btooom! vol 4

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Title: Btooom! vol 4

Publisher: Yen Press

Author: Junya Inoue

Rating: Mature

Just when you think things are calm, book 4 of Btooom! decides to crank things up again. After an interesting first chapter, which fills in a few more gaps, it is back to the action. The fight in this book is well thought out, showing an interest in the tactical side of a fight and also shows fighters learning and adapting to conditions and environment, as well as each other. There is also plenty of background material to enjoy and you feel that the more you read the deeper in the story you are.

All this does somewhat depend on the reader. If, like me, you immerse yourself when reading a story, then this is a great series and each book makes you want to go further and further. As I reached this point in the series I knew that I wanted to know what happens next and find out more about the individuals involved.

It’s hard to say too much more without giving away too many spoilers, what I can say is that at this point this is a series that is hard not to recommend to anyone else you know who likes this kind of story. Yes, as I mentioned in earlier reviews, there plenty of similarities to characters from other books and shows and for sure there will be people who will read this and think I have come across this type of character before but for me it is the way these characters are blended, as well as some gaps that have yet to be filled that make this a great read.

DB review: Btooom! vol 3

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Title: Btooom! vol 3

Publisher: Yen Press

Author: Junya Inoue

Rating: Mature

The opening to Btoom! Book 3 is a gem, one of my favourites. I can’t say much more as this a critical review not a story summary, but the pace changes in that one chapter are subtle and clever and lead nicely into the story’s second bombshell, the first being that the characters are playing a death game for real.

Another good thing for the story is that by now you are engaging with the characters, getting to know some of their backgrounds while also keeping some mystery in their lives.It’s good to see that in what is in essence an action story, time has been taken on characters you can invest in. Book 3 also gets the reader to evaluate what they might do in certain situations, the battle of self preservation against keeping a team of people together.

It is one of those books that doesn’t bring much new to the story but does immerse you deeper into the characters, their individual story’s, as well as showing that the island is not a safe to place be even without other players.

It moves the story on very nicely though and is as an important part of the story as any other book because if you are like the type of reader I am it totally involves you and does something really important and that is it gets you thinking.

DB review: Btooom! vol 2

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Title: Btooom! vol 2

Publisher: Yen Press

Author: Junya Inoue

Rating: Mature

Any good action/adventure story will have a change in pace. Slower sections allow you to catch your breath and process what took place in the faster more action packed sequences. Done right and the pace changes allow you to immerse yourself in the story, engaging with the characters whilst enjoying the action they get involved in. Done poorly and there seems to be no real flow and it is difficult to understand the characters.

 Book 2 of Btoom! Starts by introducing us to new characters as is the norm for second books, and in this case they introduce to a personal favourite of mine. I do enjoy characters that are morally different from the norm as they create centres of unpredictability, as an example I cite the Joker as seen in the Dark Knight film. Here was a character that wasn’t able to be influenced in the ways that most people expect and Btoom introduces to a character that has that kind of feel about them.

 The next thing to remember with Btoom! is that it is a mature rated manga and this volume pulls no punches reminding us of that fact. Visually vivid and detailed, no punches are pulled it terms of it’s graphicness.

 On top of all this is the mystery aspect of the story which plays out the form a few short flash-backs and also gives a nice feeling that everything is being watched by some higher power.

 All in all Btoom! book 2 continues the story on nicely and does enough to make you want to keep reading. For me personally it ticks all the boxes and is thoroughly enjoyable. Sure it is possible to see where its influences come from but the combination is put together in way that you just don’t care. It keeps up the good work set down in book 1.

DB review: Btooom! vol 1

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Title: Btooom! Part 1

Publisher: Yen Press

Author: Junya Inoue

Rating: Mature

A Sign Of Things To Come

Btooom! book 1 introduces us to a well used plot premise, that of a computer gamer having to play a game for real. The trick with these stories is to make the reader believe that the characters are actually feeling something during the story. If the author can do this then you start to feel involved in the story, because the characters feel real. The problem is that sometimes an author tries a little too hard and it feels like the characters are being forced down your throat.  That does seem to be the case here. There is little initial warmth in the character so it is difficult to form a true attachment but maybe that is something for later in the story. Saying that the sensations of being in a real life or death game are made to feel real which is never easy.

The science and technological aspects in stories like these have to be balanced well.  Too much and readers can switch off, yet if there isn’t the right level of explanation then the science and technological aspects can seem lost. Here the most important technology is explained fairly well with not too much information given before it is necessary.

I have specifically chosen not to be too detailed with character names and plot devices as to me Btooom! has a good start and I wouldn’t want to give too much information away. Saying that though, I can give you a good idea of the feel of the piece. It reminds me a lot of the beginning of Lost, with plenty of time given to the thoughts of who to trust and who not to. The book too, is not afraid to name check other titles to give the reader a quick idea of things. The book actually describes Btooom! as a Battle Royale type of game.

What this first book does really well is give hints that there is more to come, as initially it seems light on the levels of violence and fanservice (for a mature rated manga) but does give enough to suggest that plenty more of both is on the way. There is also enough comedy to keep things going. All in all this is a decent start with interesting aspects that could be developed well in future parts.