Happy Saturday, chums! The first week of Ramadan has ended. While I was only able to partake in a couple of days due to an unexpected reaction to eating meat recently, I must say that the experience otherwise thus far has been quite gratifying. One of the parts of this Holy Islamic month that I appreciate the most is how much it allows me to reflect on the little things in life that I find joy in, even if those things aren’t necessarily the healthiest (Indian sweets) or the most masterful (bad creature feature films).
Sometimes as reviewers, it can be easy for us to get so caught up in the technicalities of the things that we review, that we forget to take a moment to bask in the enjoyment we may have gotten from that piece of media (books, anime, films, video games, etc.), shortcomings or elements that we felt kept it from being perfection notwithstanding. I think that is one of the reasons that I love bad action films (Deep Blue Sea, The Meg, and Mortal Kombat are some of my absolute favourites).
So, in an effort to show some love to things that were far from beacons of excellence, this morning I wanted to chat about manga serials that I still like to read and re-read on occasion, even though they may have been initial disappointments or have quirks about them that as a reviewer I didn’t care for. Rather, they are stories with characters and other traits that I adored with the lens of fan rather than a semi-professional critic.
05. Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino
Vampire Knight is a shōjo, dark fantasy, romance manga series with nineteen volumes and revolves around an elite, private boarding academy that has two special classes: the Day Class and the Night Class. One is full of young, human students and the other is for the gorgeous and darkly nobles who also happen to be vampires. There are two special students who are tasked with guarding, or protecting, the Day Class from the prowlers of the Night: Yūki Cross and Zero, which also allows Ms Yūki to stay in touch with her secret love and saviour, the epitome of vampire royalty, Kaname Kuran.
My first encounter with this series was with the anime, which I thoroughly enjoyed for what it was. The anime’s finale made me curious about where the story went afterwards, so I picked up the manga. Honestly, I didn’t care for the second half of the manga that much at all, for quite a large number of reasons. Yet, I still like to re-read this manga from time-to-time, specifically the first half to the first two-thirds. There are some taboo and uncomfortable themes in the romance department, but I love the characters and the twisted nature of it. Whenever I find myself in the mood to read something dark and dangerous that doesn’t take itself too seriously, this is the manga that I tend to pick up.
04. Resident Evil: Marhawa Desire by Capcom & Naoki Serizawa (artist)
Resident Evil: Marhawa Desire is a shōnen, action-horror manga with five total volumes that’s advertised as a prequel series to Resident Evil 6 and features franchise peck-pal, Chris Redfield. Taking place in the middle of the Asian subcontinent at a private school known as the Marhawa Academy, an outbreak occurs one evening. The headmistress contacts an old mate of hers in order to help solve the mystery and take control of the situation before things get out of hand, while remaining utterly discreet, of course.
Okay, truth time. I ripped this manga to shreds in my review for it (which is also one of my more newbie manga reviews). Nevertheless, I am obsessed with Resident Evil. I love everything about it. One late, late night I sat down and played through the GameCube version of the first instalment with my ex-partner and a new, delightfully deranged relationship took place. It could have been the splendid atmospheric experience, the fact it was my first ever zombie encounter, or Lisa motherfricking Trevor. Whatever the reason, my passion for this franchise took off and has only blossomed with each new instalment, for better or worse. Because of that unique bias, I love returning to this series for it’s exquisitely cheesy dialogue and mediocre plot that has become iconic where Resident Evil is concerned.
03. The Earl and the Fairy by Mizue Tani & Ayuko (artist)
The Earl and the Fairy is a shōjo, fantasy, romance manga adaptation of the light novel series with four total volumes. Set in the 19th century, the story is about a young lady named Lydia who’s a Fairy Doctor. Her simple life takes an adventurous turn when she meets an infamous blue knight named Edgar. Determined to locate a treasured sword belonging to his family, Edgar hires Lydia to be his magical advisor.
This series is probably one of the very first ones that I ever reviewed on my blog—or anywhere else—nearly four years ago (cringing at the photos right now). Talking about it right now is bringing back a comforting sense of nostalgia. Reminiscence aside, The Earl and the Fairy is a very short and cute story. There isn’t anything special about it and it’s quite straightforward for the most part. But I found the implementation of Celtic folklore in a manga to be a wholly unique experience and that is what made it feel so endearing. I also liked Lydia as a main character. She’s kind and compassionate and not your stereotypical damsel in distress. Plus, there is a very adorable and sophisticated fairy cat who is irresistible.
02. A Springtime with Ninjas by Narumi Hasegaki
A Springtime with Ninjas is a shōjo, romance, action series with four volumes, and a series that I’ve read and reviewed rather recently! It’s about a fifteen-year-old girl named Benio. Benio is from the wealthiest family in Japan, and as such, has never been allowed to step foot outside of her family’s compound. Another reason behind Benio’s luxurious imprisonment is due to a unique tradition that the family has been practising for nearly 600 years: whoever steals the female heir’s first kiss ends up becoming her betrothed! But Benio is having none of that outdated crap! She just wants to be a normal girl. Eventually she persuades her uncle in allowing her to attend a regular high school. The only condition is that Benio must be accompanied by a ninja bodyguard at all times.
Everything about this series is a walking cliché. From the premise to the execution of the story to the encounters and dialogues. It’s all about as typical as you can possibly get. Nonetheless, it’s a sweet and charming series, and it took me utterly by surprise. I like the interactions between Benio, and her bodyguard and I also adored the friendships that she made along the way. There is very little to no depiction of unhealthy or toxic female friendships. There is some jealousy, yet even then, it never made me hate anybody. It’s also a perfect complement to the Spring season with its aesthetics and drawing style. This manga is great for a quick dose of laughter and feel-good fluffiness.
01. Brave 10 by Kairi Shimotsuki
Brave 10 is a seinen, historical fiction, fantasy, action serial with eight volumes, and it’s another one that I reviewed this year. It centres on Sanada’s Brave Ten warriors from Japan’s Sengoku Period (Warring States). In the manga, there are ten individuals from various fighting background that are brought together via one person in order to protect an incredible power—a priestess named Isanami— from falling into the hands of political leaders with malevolent and corrupt intentions.
My first impressions really described all of my initial frustrations with this series quite perfectly, some of which I go into more detail in my review. Then the oddest thing happened (odd because I never saw it coming), the outrageous violence and excessive crude sexual references and commentary grew on me. I found myself laughing along with some of the ridiculous dialogue and being curious to see where the next absurd plot twist would lead to. Brave 10 is one giant unapologetic romp through the Sengoku period and it felt refreshing to read such a title within a genre that I adore (historical fantasy). It’s definitely something I need to be in a special sort of mood to re-read, and it is quite a million kilometres away from perfect, but it’s fun and fun is always a welcome reprieve.
Well, those are my less-than-perfect manga serials that I love to revisit on occasion. Have you read any of these? Do you have any books or manga that you feel can be quite average, yet you love them despite that? Please, come share them with me in the comments! I’m always on the lookout for titles such as those; the sleeper favourites, so to speak.