In October 2008, I attended Yaoi-Con. I was pretty bored because I had figured out that I was not a hardcore yaoi fan, let alone a fan at all.
So I spent most of the con talking to the wonderful ladies who were staffing the GoComi! booth. They were sweet and taught me that the manga industry was pretty warm and friendly when you got to know the people behind it. A great boon for me because it was just as I was thinking seriously about getting into a manga-related career.
I have also enjoyed a fair number of their titles from Japan Ai to Ultimate Venus and so I bought a few titles over the course of their Black Friday sale in 2009.
That was a mistake. Mostly because I was moving out of my school dormitories a few weeks later. Luckily for me, my old co-workers at the campus mail distribution center sent me the package. My mom got it at her house and I JUST got it from her on Feb. 7th. FINALLY.
I was REALLY pleased that GoComi! had sent me a free volume of manga with my order, so we’ll start there:
Kamisama Kazoku by Yoshikazu Kuwashima and Tapari
The story follows a young high school student named Samataro Kamiyama who has the unique blessing of being (a?) god’s only son. Along with his guardian angel, Tenko, he attends school and tries to learn what it is to be human in order to become a god. Meanwhile, his family gets in the way of all his attempts at a normal life.
That pleased feeling of getting a free manga didn’t last very long. It felt VERY rushed, like we were supposed to know who these people were already and so all their character traits were squeezed into one page as an introduction before moving on to the next character. Then came the main character’s family. God, or a god, it is not explained, is a lazy bum interested only in some wifely eye candy and pleasing his son. If his father trying to constantly spoil him rotten with little miracles wasn’t bad enough, his mother, a goddess, continuously attempts an incestuous relationship with Samataro. His sisters seem normal, but they’re warped too. They like to meddle in their brother’s life with no regard as to consequences. It’s hard to believe these people could actually exist, even with the “theological” themes of the manga.
The rest of the story itself isn’t bad, but it isn’t anything to get excited about. However, this is the first time I’ve read a manga where I said “This manga is FUCKED UP” every time I looked up from my reading.
The generic, but pleasant art from Tapari (who is actually Korean) is the only thing that prevents me from giving this manga a big solid F, instead of a D-.
Bogle by Shino Taira and Yuko Ichiju
Bogle is about a girl who transfers to a new school and is suddenly recruited for a secret group of thieves called Bogle. A bit of an amateur thief herself, Asuka Hamuro quickly fits in and begins to participate in the group’s commissions, which consists of stealing items that are important to people in one way or another.
I bought this series because the art reminded me of some kind of cross between Chika Shiomi and You Higuri. I like both artists a lot, so I was pretty pleased the art turned out like I’d hoped. The story’s not half bad. It’s episodic nature keeps things from getting too deep, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing depending on how you look at it. There’s a lot of focus on teamwork, and while the characters aren’t spectacular, they do their job nicely.
The only thing that REALLY bothered me was that every once in awhile, someone would say something along the lines of “You’re so mysterious, Asuka. You make friends with everyone.” It was pretty dumb considering that Asuka had never uttered an ounce of mystery or unfriendliness in anyone’s direction. B- for Bogle. It’s not exemplary, but it’s nice.
Crown by Shinji Wada and You Higuri
Crown is the story of Mahiro Shinomiya, who is the long-lost princess of Regalia. The story starts out with her utterly down on her luck, but cheerful despite it all. Then her brother Ren and his friend Jake swoop in to save her from destitution and protect her from all the sudden attempts on her life.
Apparently Shinji Wada is a fairly prolific and well-known mangaka in Japan, which was surprising news to me. I found out this was because a lot of his other works are drawn in the 1970s’ and 80’s and anything much later than 1995 seems to be a collaboration between him and another artist. I pretty much bought this series because I do like You Higuri and she can create magnificent manga… when she has full control of the wheel.
Much like Kamisama Kazoku, Crown’s beginning starts off fast. The introductions aren’t so bad, but once Ren and Jake swoop in to save Mahiro, it takes no time at all for Mahiro to regain all her long-forgotten memories, such as not being related to her deceased “parents” at all. No time is spent in confusion about the sudden re-appearance of her brother or her identity. This is pretty much Mahiro to a T, she’s about as deep as a puddle. She smiles for everyone. She hugs everyone. She does not doubt Jake and her brother when they suddenly strip off their tuxes to reveal full combat uniforms and start shooting guns at the enemies despite the fact that she did not know they used to be mercenaries or that she’s a princess. Mahiro doesn’t have a bad bone in her body and that is really a problem. She’s supposed to be the main character. Instead, she doesn’t ever know why she’s being protected and Ren and Jake take over as the driving force of the manga. Thank goodness because they are better written.
But do they, some other interesting characters and the pretty art make up for a rather flimsy female lead and a really poorly written story? No. C- for Crown. It was only gets a better grade than Kamisama Kazoku because it didn’t gross me out every few pages.
I’m really disappointed in these series because I love so many other GoComi! series a lot more. I know every company has their hits and misses and some titles are pretty much meant for the backburners, but I’m kind of wondering what the hell went wrong here.
I’m sorry, GoComi! I want to love you, but I can’t love these series. Except maybe Bogle if you ever release the next volume. I’ll continue to love Ultimate Venus, Bound Beauty, Song of the Hanging Sky and A Wise Man Sleeps as much as you’d like though!
I had supremely similar feelings about Kamisama Kazoku. #2 really didn’t clear anything up either, it just made things even more unbearable.
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