A couple weeks ago I experienced the nerd’s equivalent of a birthday or Christmas–a box in the mail from Amazon. A large box.
I hadn’t bought anything for myself in a while, except t-shirts with cats on them, so I took advantage of Amazon’s 4-for-3 book sale, and my husband’s free 2-day shipping through Amazon Prime.
Here’s what was in my box:
- Dragon Slippers, Dragon Flight, Dragon Spear (all by Jessica Day George)
- Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
- Grimpow y la bruja de la estirpe by Rafael Ábalos
- Kobato v. 4 and 5
- Cardcaptor Sakura Omnibus v. 1 and 2
- Magic Knight Rayearth Omnibus v.1
The last 3 are all manga, written and drawn by the incomparable CLAMP. They are my favorite manga-ka; I have read most of their works and own several of them. They have been together since the late 80s and are still churning out hits; most of their works have also been adapted into anime. The group consists of four women, one writer and three artists who trade off duties depending on the work; that’s why each series has a different aesthetic, but overall their style looks fairly consistent. I can always tell a CLAMP work when I see it; I even recognized their style in the anime Code Geass before I found out that they did the character design.
In terms of story, they often blend shoujo and shonen, giving them a wide audience of all ages. Motifs often include magic, fate, reincarnation, multiple dimensions with different versions of characters in each, ambiguously-gendered pretty people, different kinds of love, and soulmates. They frequently “cross-over” characters or shops from one work to another, especially in their recent Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle.
Kobato is their most recent completed work. It has 6 total volumes; I have bought/read 5 so far, and the last one was just published in English this month. It is the story of a girl, Kobato, who has a wish, and to fulfill that wish she must fill up a jar with hearts she has healed. She is guided by a crazy stuffed dog, Ioryogi (think Kero-chan with anger management issues). Kobato is slow to start (the plot doesn’t really kick in until about volume 3), but the art is beautiful and the characters are great.
Recommended for people who like:
- focus on character and world development over plot
- fantasy shoujo manga with beautiful artwork
- other Clamp works, esp. Wish or Chobits
Cardcaptor Sakura is my favorite manga/anime ever. It was originally published starting in 1996; Dark Horse Comics has recently acquired the English rights and is publishing all 12 volumes in 4-volume omnibus form. The story: Sakura Kinomoto discovers a strange book in her basement and accidentally released all the Clow Cards; as the Cardcaptor, she must return them all to the book before a disaster befalls the world. She is aided by her best friend, her rival for the cards, her older brother, her first crush, and the cards’ magical guardian who looks like a stuffed animal. It’s a nice mix of relationships and action, with an overall “kawaii” feel. Sakura’s myriad costumes are what inspired me to start drawing in 8th grade.
I already have the 12 volumes of CCS that Tokyopop released in the 2000s, but I really wanted the omnibus versions, too! They are a little harder to read because they are so thick, but the quality is nice, and they have included the color artwork from the originals. The translations are good (but no translation notes), and the SFX are left in Japanese with translations.
- fans of magical girl manga, or of fantasy shoujo in general
- CLAMP virgins (it’s a great one to start with)
- mature 10-yr-olds and above (there is more “objectionable” content than in the anime: student-teacher relationships and gay relationships)
Dark Horse is also doing the same thing with Magic Knight Rayearth, the series that preceded CCS. I had never read/seen it, so I bought the first omnibus (they’re only about $12). I am familiar with some of the characters from Tsubasa (Mokona, Caldina, etc.). The first omnibus, which contains the whole first story arc, exceeded my expectations. The story is faced-paced, with lots of action: a real page-turner. It’s kind of a shoujo-magical girl, mixed with shonen-mecha idea, with some sword and sorcery in there as well. Great characters and beautiful art, with much thicker, darker lines than CCS. I will definitely be buying the 2nd volume!
The omnibus edition itself is nice; it has all the full-color character bios and art. But it is pretty thick, and the cover dimensions are even smaller than the CCS omnibus, so it is a little hard to read. The translations are colloquial English, a little slang-y in places (again no translation notes). I can’t figure out why Ferio says “y’all” all the time. Does he speak very casually? I don’t think he has an accent. Caldina, on the other hand, is supposed to have an Osaka accent, but that is not apparent at all from the translation.
- role playing gamers (you will get a kick out of the talk about leveling and bosses)
- fans of action (shonen) anime with female protagonists
- mature 10-yr-olds and above (some bloody violence)
I did also buy some actual books 🙂 I love the Dragon Slippers series (appropriate for age 10+ as well) and decided I really need to own them. I bought Princess Academy (a Newbery Honor winner) so I could re-read it in anticipation of the forthcoming sequel Palace of Stone (out in August).
Grimpow y la bruja de la estirpe is the sequel to Grimpow: The Invisible Road (El Camino Invisible), which was a bestseller in YA fantasy back in 2008. The series is written by Spanish lawyer Rafael Ábalos. You can get an English version of the first book, but I have both in Spanish. I prefer to read things in the original language if at all possible (I also prefer subs over dubs for anime). The books are a little overrated, and a little long, but are a fun read. I would recommend them if you like puzzles and historical mysteries (à la The Da Vinci Code) and can tolerate a slow-moving plot. I really enjoy the challenge of reading them in Spanish; it helps keep my language skills sharp in a fun, easy way.