Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pumpkin Scissors: Volume 1 by Ryotaro Iwanaga

This story focuses on a young and still idealistic noblewoman who leads the Pumpkin Scissors group on their missions and a scarred veteran who joins them in order to try and do some good in a far different capacity than his wartime job as a berserker-like Anti-Tank Trooper.
The first line of this book is "There is no war, but peace has not yet graced the land... This story is about the stage in between..." I found that a fascinating idea, as few books and even fewer comics deal with this messy situation.
It manages to be very serious and even grim, but not get bogged down into depressing, angsty melodrama. The unpleasant situation the country is in is something the characters don't waste more than a comment or two complaining about, instead they are doing what they can to help without expecting much in return except that people will be better off because of it.

The art is a definite strong point as well, it's heavy and varied yet graceful and smooth line art with solidly drawn, substantial characters give it a weight and depth that I find rare in sh┼Źnen series. It's almost more seinen in that aspect. The amount of screen tone is very balanced, not too heavy and crowded as in many mangas with an action element, and so are the speedlines and crosshatching. The character designs stand out without resorting to ridiculous and unrealistic additions tacked onto a bland base. The panel layout makes for a nearly effortless, smooth read, with excellent visual pacing to show you where to stop and pay more attention or glide through fast-paced fight sequences. It's very easy to just keep turning pages.

A few spots in the translation seemed a touch rough grammatically and sounded a little off, although I had trouble figuring out exactly why in some cases. I think this is not uncommon for translated stories, as the arrangement and structure of each language is different and they don't always easily match up.

I admit that at the end of this book I still didn't know why the group calls themselves "Pumpkin Scissors" which bothered me a bit. Perhaps I missed it or it isn't explained until a later volume. There were also a few spots where I had to turn back a couple pages and re-read to make sure I didn't miss something because of an overly fast transition from place to place.

All in all, I highly enjoyed this and will keep an eye out for more. I may also have to try the anime, I know FUNimation streams at least some of it online at their website. However a look at screencaps from the show seems to indicate very typical, normalized, CGI artwork without the same weight of the comic, which is a touch off-putting. It doesn't have the same distinctiveness and looks the same as a hundred other series.

5 Stars

Chi's Sweet Home: Volume 2 by Kanata Konami

This is a simple tale without complicated plot twists resulting in long, tricky explanations. It is about a little kitten and her family. It follows her day-to-day dramas, including the ones around a large, pushy black cat from around the neighborhood.

The art is too cute and perfect for expressing the dramatics of feline emotions. There were times (like during Chi's tantrum about having her food eaten by another cat or her excitement over the "muilk") that I was laughing out loud simply over the perfectness of the artwork. There were several panels that if someone printed them up poster-sized I would have an really hard time not buying. Definitely a book filled with "awww" moments and a few that will tug the heartstrings of cat-lovers. Those familiar with manga may be surprised to notice that it is in color rather than the more common black-and-white.
I haven't a single complaint about this book other than it makes me want more!

5 Stars