Otaku USA Magazine
Bonus Manga Reviews

FP-Welcome to Wakaba

Welcome to Wakaba-soh

Yen Press
story and art: Chaco Abeno
rating: 16+

Kentarou, a short 15-year-old, is in love with Karen, a prim-and-
proper girl from a rich family. His mind is blown when he discovers
that Karen is taking a year off of school to be the caretaker of his
student apartment building, Wakaba-soh, a rundown place full of cute
high school girls who always leave their underwear where Kentarou can
find it. Little does Kentarou know that one of those girls, the
standoffish Arai, has secretly had a crush on him since they were
children! (Kentarou, of course, doesn’t recognize Arai with her
glasses on.) And so the love triangle begins …

Abeno make it very clear that Wakaba-soh was inspired by Maison
Ikkoku, the classic “student in love with his building manager” story.
Wakaba-soh, however, is 30 years more recent and 30,000 times nerdier
than Rumiko Takahashi’s classic. The artist’s strength is in cute-girl
illustration, with camera angles out of a love simulation game, and
slender-thighed, Lolita-esque character designs. Storywise, however,
it could have been written one-handed. The short, 4-to-8-page chapters
are cramped and hard to read and jump around a lot. Kentarou, although
not a lech, is a cipher, and Karen, the main love interest, is also
boring; there isn’t much more to her than her looks and her
caretaker’s uniform. On the other hand, some of the supporting cast
are fun, such as Kokage Nakamoto, the aspiring shojo manga artist who
endures harsh criticism from her editor (“Your art SUCKS!”) and
secretly works on Boy’s Love dojinshi. It’s got some funny scenes, but
on the whole it makes me think Abeno should focus on sexy
illustrations for games and art books, particularly since then I
wouldn’t have to review her work.

m-LapislazuliThe Lapis Lazuli Crown

publisher: CMX
story and art: Natsuna Kawase
rating: All Ages

In the kingdom of Savarin, 20% of the population can use magic, which
they channel through gemstones. Miel, the middle daughter of a family
of sorcerers, is frustrated with her lack of magical talent (though
she’s good enough to fly), and embarrassed by her unfeminine gift of
super-strength, which she thinks will get in the way of her life goal
of … MARRYING INTO MONEY. Ka-ching! But Miel’s life plan changes when
she meets Prince Radian, an easygoing nobleman who likes to walk the
streets incognito, and who thinks that both her super-strength and her
magical talent are pretty cool. Giving her a lapis lazuli stone and
telling her to practice her magic, Radian gives Miel a new goal: to
get good enough at magic so she can become a palace magician (and get
to see more of Radian, of course…so the moral is, “you gotta focus on
yourself and your work, and then you can think about marrying the

This buddy/love story spends a lot of pages discussing the how-tos of
magic in Savarin. Radian and Miel spend a lot of time solving magic-
related problems, when not running from Radian’s exasperated bodyguard/
chaperone, Sieg. Though the “boyish girl and open-minded guy”
character interaction is pleasant enough, the story has a meandering
feeling, with not a lot of continuity between episodes (at least in
Volume 1). Also, as fantasy stories go, the magic here is fairly dull—
basically just various forms of telekinesis and creating barriers. The
bonus story, “Daisy Romance,” about a kimono-wearing girl and a
phantom thief in early 20th-century Japan, has prettier art than the
main plot, but is still easy to forget.

m-TakeruTakeru: Opera Susanoh: Sword of the Devil

publisher: Tokyopop
story: Kazuki Nakashima
art: Karakarekemuri
rating: 13+

Tokyo’s Gekidan Shinkansen theater troupe performs self-styled “modern
kabuki” theater; instead of following the traditional forms of kabuki,
they follow the intent of kabuki (in their opinion) by shocking the
audience with monsters, rock music, special effects, and crazy visual
kei costume designs. It’s a popular group, and now Takeru: Opera
Susanoh, a play by “action theater playwright” Kazuki Nakashima
(www.performing arts.jp/E/art_interview/0611/1.
html), has been made into a manga that ran in the “hot boy fantasy
action” (my description, not theirs) magazine Comic Blade Zebel.
That’s the backstory of this action-adventure manga about three guys
named Takeru (cocky hero Izumo-no-Takeru, shirtless buff guy Kumaso-no-
Takeru, and girlish-but-deadly ninja Oguna-no-Takeru) who go searching
for the magic sword that can defeat an evil empire. After they meet up
and exchange wisecracks (“I’m just a friendly wanderer charmed by your
manly chivalry”), their quest leads them to enchanted clay soldiers, a
jungle kingdom of Amazon warriors, and many fights with bad guy
flunkies. Knowing about the theatrical origin, it’s easy to imagine
Takeru as a wild stage show, with lots of stage combat and one-liners,
like one of those 20-minute plays based on Naruto or Dragon Ball that
manga publishers sponsor at children’s festivals in Japan.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t translate well to manga. An actor onstage
can get away with dumb jokes with a wink of his eye and a toss of his
shiny hair, but in manga, it comes off as unnecessary dialogue and
cheesy mugshots. There’s a lot to look at—good-looking characters and
ornate fantasy stuff—but the panel layouts are stiff and square, the
perspective is sometimes off, the fight scenes are unexciting. As
manga, Karakarekemuri’s work doesn’t flow well, and the result is a
clunky reading experience with heroes whose “it’s all a big game and
aren’t we awesome” attitude is a little irritating.