Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa

What is your wish? Gold? Immortality? Fame? Whatever it might be, you can have it!

So long as you’re willing to pay the price for it. How about sacrificing your first born son to get gold? Dying every time you got hurt in exchange for almost immortal like powers? Or even killing a whole town to gain fame!

You see, with alchemy, you can gain anything you want, but the rule of alchemy is that for everything made there is an equal amount that must be given back. Water is needed to instantly make ice, trees in order to make paper. And brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric have just learned the hard way that in order to bring their dead mother back to life, Edward must sacrifice a leg and Alphonse his whole body. And then, Edward sacrificed his arm to put his brother’s soul upon a suit of armor.

Now, Edward and Alphonse have vowed to get their bodies back, or at least Al’s trying to get his back, as Ed wants to keep his leg as a reminder. They travel the world as “dogs of the military”, Ed with a fullmetal arm and leg, and Al in his armor body. Of course, they have heard of the Philosopher’s stone, the stone that defies the rules of alchemy, but they vowed never to use it. And it was good that they did so, as some evil is distributing fake Philosopher’s stones.

This manga is legendary, and deserves the credit it has. It has been rated by many manga sites as one of the top three mangas ever, and, although it is not the best art, the story is amazing. Not only does the manga have some high depth philosophical elements, but it also has some very good tragic and comedy moments, including the most well known death scene in anime and a ferocious mini panda that considers weak humans worse than food.

Additionally, I love that while it goes over how far one is willing to pay for their wishes, it also gets into immortality. For example, the story gets into how two different people crossed a huge desert just to get immortality. Furthermore, there is even one guy who has immortality, though never really wanted and is now faced with the burden of people calling him a monster, seeing people he loves die before him, and the great sin of what he did to gain immortality.

Not only is this manga well known, it was made by a woman. It is extremely rare for action manga to be created by a women, and I can only think of seven other women who can say that they have written a famous action manga, with only two of those rivaling this amazing woman. So, feminists, rejoice by reading a manga that is not only made by a woman, but features a female role model who is in the military and the other women in the manga are not content with just “waiting”.

Finally, the spacing and ending for this manga is incredible! This manga ended a while ago, but I can think of no better way to end the story. I did read Beezelbub, which ran shorter than Fullmetal Alchemist and had a pretty good ending, but I finished reading it feeling that there could have been more the author could have touched on. I have also read Bleach and Naruto, both longer than Fullmetal Alchemist, but Naruto had an okay ending and Bleach had an ending that is to not be spoken of. However, Fullmetal Alchemist was perfect in this regard. Not only did it tie in stuff from the first chapters, such as us meeting the same characters from chapter one near the end, but Ed and Al get their bodies in a way that best suited the characters. The villains died in such a way that the reader feels satisfied, and everyone gets an ending that not only shows what they’re doing in the future, but also shows so much hope for them in the future. This way was really perfect, and I can see no flaws (other than the fact that I felt that one of the very good villains died way earlier than the rest of the very good villains, but that was it).

Once I again, even for non manga lovers, if there is any manga you should read before you die, it is this one.

Megan V,

Pandora Hearts by Jun Mochizuki

pandorahearts_junmochizukiOz Vessalius is fifteen years old, which means that it is time for his coming of age ceremony for the Vessalius family. Being the head of a powerful family, he doesn’t have to worry about in his future and his days are spent teasing his servant Gil, playing with his younger sister, and trying to woo the beautiful Sharon. That is, until he and Gil stumble upon a grave and Oz starts to have weird dreams about a girl in a twisted dollhouse who wants to kill him. The erratic Baskervilles send Oz into the “Abyss”, a prison thought only to be be a scary bedtime story. But why is the girl from his dream suddenly helping him get out of the Abyss? More importantly, when he finally gets out, has the world changed? Or did the Abyss change him?

Pandora Hearts is a completed manga series, with 104 chapters in 24 volumes and it’s a very worthwhile read. The series has very beautiful artwork, with each panel being a masterpiece and scenery that perfectly sets the tone. Additionally, characters are drawn in a way that perfectly suits their personalities. They have incredible backstories that lead the plot towards incredible twists and turns. The plot is woven well into the overall theme, from one scene about madness, to the next being completely comedic and the next being a thrilling action scene.

For Alice in Wonderland fans, it is nice to see many references to the book, with many scenes of madness, a character named “Alice”, and many characters having nicknames such as “Mad Hatter” or “B-Rabbit”. However, younger teens should be cautioned because some scenes of madness and action can be quite gruesome and twisted.

This is an amazing manga series, and I hope that everyone can take the chance to read it.

-Megan V., 11th Grade

Pandora Hearts is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

D. Gray Man by Katsura Hoshino

Allen Walker had been tossed around for most of his life. At just fifteen years old, he has faced the twisted Millenium Earl, watched his beloved Mana turned into the accursed Akuma, and has played so many poker games just to pay off his master Cross Marian’s debt. But finally, he can now become an Exorcist, the one and only group of people that serves to get rid of the Akuma and the Millemium Earl once and for all. Of course, so long as he can contain fully use the Innocence that inhabits his left hand and eye.

This is a really great story! Despite the fact that it goes on hiatus a lot because of the author’s health, I really enjoy the plot and how it can go from comedy to seriousness in a matter of seconds. There are also some very great fight scenes, with giant hammers and huge battles against the Akuma and the Noahs. Although there is no romance, there are still the important bonds of family and friendship that show how strong these bonds can be.

Additionally, I really like how there are not only physical battles, but emotional ones too, with one guy living with the fact that he is a vampire and another trying to hold on to the responsibilities of being a “Librarian.” Most importantly, I love how the author makes you fall in love with the characters. From one character loving his sister way too much to another being playful even though he is evil, each of the characters somehow worm their way into the reader’s hearts.

This manga, although still going on, is a very good recommendation for fans of action and fantasy.

-Megan V., 11th grade

Manga Introduction: Bleach by Tite Kubo

bleach_titekuboIchigo Kurosaki is a high school student who can see ghosts. Because of this ability, he encounters Rukia Kuchiki, a Soul Reaper who guides souls from the World of the Living to Soul Society (the afterlife and Rukia’s home). Their meeting is not the most fortunate. Rukia is severely wounded saving Ichigo from a fallen soul called a Hollow. Left with no choice, Rukia gives her power to Ichigo to change into a Soul Reaper so he may fight in her stead. Now without power, Rukia is trapped in a human body and must train Ichigo to keep the balance of souls a Soul Reaper. Their partnership is far from easy as it reveals dark secrets that could tip the balance of the world just enough to destroy it all.

 

Here are a few facts about Bleach:

  • It was published in August of 2001 and ended 15 years later in August of 2016
  • There are 74 tankobon volumes (manga books) .
  • It was published weekly by Shueisha in the magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump
  • Bleach has sold a total of 84 million copies in Japan, ranking as the sixth best-selling series from Weekly Shōnen Jump as of 2013.
  • An anime series aired from October of  2004  to March of 2012 ending with a total of 366 episodes
  • Four animated films have been released, all featuring an original plot and character created by Tite Kubo: Memories of Nobody, The DiamondDust Rebellion, Fade to Black, and Hell Verse
  • Two collectible card games based on the Bleach series have been produced, one in Japan and one in North America.
  • There has been 9 musical productions since 2005. Five of which have been based on the original manga. The rest have been original stories or specials performances.
  • Recently, a live action film adaptations has been confirmed and it is to produced by Warner Brothers and directed by Shinsuke Sato, who has filmed other live action movies like Gantz and Library Wars

This is not one of my top favorites, but I still consider it a good manga. Compared to most manga, Bleach has one of the most structured settings I have seen. This could be seen as a necessity, due to the large cast of characters, but it helps with understanding how each society functions. This one of my favorite multi-dimensional worlds stories as it goes beyond just the two parallel worlds concept. Rather there are several worlds that balance the each other out. Characters, especially, are well developed with backstories that explain their choices and actions. I will have to say the beginning of the series I enjoyed more than the chapters currently, because the manga now is just trying to end and it has been dragged out far too long. As far as I understand, it has “officially” ended but there are still “extra” chapters to be released.

I do recommend this to an older audience as it contains a large quantity of violence and cursing. This manga I would give a 6/10. It could have been better if it had ended earlier but overall, I enjoyed it. Read it for yourself to find out!

-Sarah J., 11th Grade

Bleach is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Manga Introduction: Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori

Haruhi Fujioka, a middle-class student, hopes to finish high school in the prestigious Ouran Academy as quietly as possible, but that is not going to happen in a school full of rich kids. She stumbles upon the Third Music Room where Ouran High School Host Club resides. The first encounter is not what would be called the most fortunate as Haruhi accidentally breaks a vase worth $80,000. To repay back this debt, she agrees to work for the host club, but to add to her misfortune the members of the host club mistake her as a boy. With this misunderstanding, she becomes the club’s errand boy.  Her story unfolds with the odd collection of high school hosts: President Tamaki Suoh, Vice-president Kyoya Ootori, Identical twins Hikaru and Kaoru Hitachiin, Mitsukuni “Honey” Haninozuka and his cousin Takashi “Mori” Morinozuka. This is the story of her adventures with these characters and how she survives in the crazy world of the rich and eccentrics. From daily costume parties to romantic adventures on a island, her life is definitely not going to be as quiet as she hoped.

First off some basic facts:

  • The manga began in September 2002 and ended 8 years later in November of 2010
  • There are 18 tankobon volumes (manga books)
  • A 26-episode anime television series aired between April 5 and September 26, 2006 (Note: The anime does not cover the entire manga series, to completely finish it you will have to read the manga. Same applies the the live action)
  • There was a live action drama and film released in 2011

This is personally one of my favorites. I can admit I’m not crazy about romance and ridiculous scenarios but this manga I would read again and again. It has a female character who has her feets more or less set on the ground. A nice contrast to the rest of the host club who has a much more eccentric lifestyle. This is the only shojo manga which most of my friends have enjoyed. This most likely because the importance the manga places in friends and family. Also in how each character is properly developed and not left without a compelling backstory.

This is one manga I would recommend to everyone, even if they are not a fan of shojo manga. It will give a unexpected surprise. Of course I can say this for everyone. So discover it for yourself.

-Sarah J., 11th Grade

 

Monster by Naoki Urasawa

monster_naokiurasawaLet’s say that you’re a doctor. You have a choice to save either one of these patients: a ten year old boy who arrived at the hospital first, or the mayor of the city. You can only save one while the other will die. Who will you choose? Now, let’s say that you choose the child: congratulations, you have now unleashed a monster onto the world.

Dr. Kenzou Tenma, a Japanese doctor working in late 20th century East Germany, saved a ten year old boy named Johan Liebert instead of the mayor ten years ago. Because of that, he lost his trust with his colleagues, his fiancee, and his promotion. To top it off, the boy he saved had murdered two people before admitted to the hospital. Now, Dr. Tenma is a fugitive framed for the murders committed by Johan Liebert after seeing this monster again.

Throughout his run on his life, Tenma tries to figure out Johan’s past. And he must consider one question: if he knew ten years ago that the boy he wants to save will turn out to be a monster, would he save the mayor? And if Johan’s life were in his hands again, would he save him?

This manga is a very good psychological story. Dr. Tenma meets a bunch of so-called monsters along his run, and proves that all of them can be forgiven. For example, he meets a soldier and a young girl. The soldier had killed the girl’s mother, and worries that he would never be forgiven, as the girl never smiles or speaks to him. However, Dr. Tenma fixes this rift, and in the end the little girl holds the soldier’s hand as if he were her father. Additionally, we hear the police’s side of the story, and through their investigations even we start to wonder if Johan is just in Tenma’s brain or not.

Additionally, Urasawa accurately depicts the historical content and geography of East Germany and Czechoslovakia throughout the story: the beautiful city of Prague, the slums of major cities, and the brutality of the underground.

Urasawa’s characters are also incredible, and it is amazing what each of them does to get the job done: Johan’s insane plans, the detective that is chasing after Dr Tenma and what he thinks in order to chase after his patients, and the motivation of many, whether if it is chasing after Johan or living a daily life. The artwork is very beautiful, and you cannot tell it’s a manga from twenty years ago: each of the characters looks widely unique and well crafted. Additionally, the backgrounds are incredible, which each scene looking realistic as if you were there yourself, whether it was in a hospital room, a restaurant, or a prison.

This was a manga that made me just say “wow” at the end, and anyone into mysteries, action, psychological thrillers, or horror would be really hooked into this series.

-Megan V, 11th grade

Twin Star Exorcists (Sousei no Onmyouji) by Yoshiaki Sukeno

In every story, there are elements and themes that are often repeated but twisted in such a way that readers know what to expect while sitting on the edge of their seats. These elements may include the typical multiple girls liking the hero, an awesome heroine, a ditzy heroine, a kind of scary father in law, an anti-villian/anti-hero, or an evil brother. Oh, and did I mention the atypical manga “main heroine somehow ends up in the most awkward moments with the hero” trope? How about the “pervert teacher ends up to be actually super powerful”? Or the “government is evil and has ulterior motives”?

That’s what Twin Star Exorcists is all about: with mixes of manga Kekkaishi, Flame of Recca, and Blue Exorcist, young fourteen year Rokuro is trying to fight his destiny against becoming an “exorcist”.

Although Rokuro is actually very good at being an exorcist, a profession that works with destroying the “impurities” (monsters created by human’s dark desires/nightmares), he wants no part in it. That is, until he meets a girl about his age, named Benio, who hits him after falling from the sky. Then, because of a prophecy, he’s told by the perverted head of the exorcists that they have to marry and have the child that will supposedly get rid of all the impurities. However, he absolutely hates her. Mostly because she too wants to be an exorcist and is absolutely annoying to him.

Typical plot tropes aside, Sukeno weaves a fantastic tale from familiar themes that readers get excited about, such as the ditzy heroine being useless but wanting to root for her because of her determination. Additionally, the manga is a hilarious comedy, with one heroine just calmly being a kuudere (someone who is cold and indifferent to others) and the other getting mad all the time.

The best thing about the manga is the incredibly beautiful artwork. Sukeno makes great use of contrasts with black ink and white paper, and even a lot of gray, creating beautiful openings and amazingly drawn and colored fight scenes.

The manga has an excellent plot line that is easy to follow and beautifully drawn characters (although unfortunately, at least in my opinion, the recent anime doesn’t do it justice). Although there are only a few volumes out, it is an extremely recommended read for one wanting to try something new.

-Megan V, 10th grade