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Marina's Sequential Art Journal

Reviews of the comics I read.


May 13th, 2009

Maya The Bee and More @ 06:32 pm

I'm at: Home
Feeling: drained drained

 
I just received the two old comics and three books I had been waiting for.

The magazines, which are two issues of Maya The Bee (La Abeja Maya) in Spanish I found on eBay, are old , having been printed in 1982. They are not in the best of shapes --the pages are spotty and worn. But they were only $3.00 each and the shipping was free, so that's okay.

They are issues #14 (La Venganza Es Dulce / Revenge Is Sweet) and #17 (Probando Suerte / translates to something like Trying Your Luck.)

They are funny and charming, although the font chosen to letter the comics is awful. Still, it was nice to read a Maya story again. I had read but a single one, when I was little.

The books are two manga volumes, Dr. Slump Vol. 18 (the last one) and Baby & Me Vol. 13. But the nicest one is the Little Lulu one, which is in full color. I am so glad Dark Horse decided to continue with their Little Lulu reprints!

I'm looking forward to all this good reading.

-Marina
 

May 7th, 2009

Because I just like talking about comics. @ 11:48 pm

I'm at: Home
Feeling: determined determined
Listening to: the neighbor's dog running around upstairs

My, I hadn't posted anything here in quite some time.

I guess that's because I wanted to dedicate this blog exclusively to comic and graphic novel reviews, and reviews only. As exclusively as possible, anyway --I must admit I haven't always adhered to this rule. Still, in my attempts to do so, I ended up neglecting this blog once again, simply because I cannot allow myself to post a less-than-perfect review. I sometimes work on them for days until I deem them worthy of being posted!

In consideration of this, I've decided that from now on I will just talk about comics here, whenever I want, regardless of whether what I have to say is of much consequence. After all, if I can't talk freely about comics on my own Sequential Art Journal, where else?

That said, I will make a sincere attempt to not let them all be random blabberings.

-Marina

 

February 15th, 2009

Tail of the Moon Prequel: The Other Hanzo(u) Coming in June 2009! @ 01:15 pm

I'm at: Home
Feeling: creative creative
Listening to: Webcomics Weekly podcast


Tail of the Moon Prequel: The Other Hanzo(u)Tail of the Moon Prequel: The Other Hanzo(u) Coming in June 2009!

I was really hoping for this, but didn't expect it to actually happen: Viz will be printing the story that would eventually inspire Rinko Ueda to create one of my favorite manga, Tail of The Moon. This story focuses on Hanzou and Princess Sara. Here's the book description as it appears on Amazon:
 
"Set in feudal Japan, a young woman is found with a huge scar on her back and no memory of who she is. She’s given the name "Kaguya" and taken in by a local brothel where she's put in charge of babysitting and housekeeping duties. Hanzou, the head guard of the nearby castle, starts to pursue her and realizes later that they’ve actually met before...and are enemies! (It turns out this young woman is one of Oda Nobunaga's daughters--Princess Sara.)In the second story, Oda Nobunaga sends Sara to infiltrate the ninja town of Iga to steal a secret gunpowder formula. She is to go under the guise of being the prospective bride of Hanzo Hattori, one of the high-ranking ninja leaders of Iga. Sara willingly goes along with the plan because she doesn't realize that she's got her Hanzo(u)s mixed up!"

I couldn't be more thrilled! Just days ago I read the very last volume of Tail of the Moon (which I hope to get around to reviewing soon.) I was already missing this series, so this little extra bit of it makes me really happy. Now if only they'd print Ueda's Ryo as well...    

 

February 9th, 2009

Planet Saturday Comics (Vol. 1) @ 01:03 am

I'm at: Home
Feeling: apathetic apathetic
Listening to: chimes blowing in the wind

Planet Saturday Comics (Vol. 1) by Monty S. Kane

91 pages | Planet Saturday, LLC

Rating: D+

Summary: A series of cute childhood short  stories sometimes featuring Emory, a boy with an overactive imagination, and sometimes the same boy now grown up and with a daughter of his own, Dot.

Some thoughts: It was rather difficult for me to review this little book, of which I received a courtesy copy from the publisher. While I wasn't particularly crazy about it, I really wanted to like it, and it is so clearly a labor of love, that it's though for me to be as brutally honest as I usually am.

First, the good points. I love the artwork. The characters are solid and very dynamic, and the detailed crosshatching is beautiful. However, at places the original pencil lines are still visible; the art is printed in grayscale and there doesn't seem to be a solid, consistent style to the way the drawings (and stories) are presented throughout the book. Given the quality of the crosshatching, I believe the comic would greatly benefit from being printed as pure, no-frills black and white.

I also found the paragraphs that preceded each little comic to be somewhat distracting. While the anecdotes themselves are interesting, I don't feel like I need a preamble to enjoy each story. It disrupts the flow of the book for me.

Finally, I am frankly at a loss of what this book's target audience would be. While some of the comics are ageless and truly charming, others seem to be directed at parents, and yet others are childish and much too simple for my liking. For the record, I believe that an "all ages" book should be entertaining for anyone. I did find some of the stories interesting and/or funny, and all of them were cute, but most didn't really engage me all that much.

Verdict: A sweet, short little book. It took me less than fifteen minutes to read it from cover to cover, so I wouldn't really spend $12.95 on it. I'll keep an eye on the webcomic, though.

-Marina
 

January 1st, 2009

Year-End Haul @ 02:27 am

I'm at: Home
Feeling: chipper chipper

Happy New Year, folks!

Like many other people, these past few months I've had no recourse other than to cut back on my expenses. This meant buying almost no books at all (not that I'm using that as an excuse for the lack of reviews lately, since my backlog is huge anyway.) The end of the year, however, has blessed me with a pretty decent haul, and then some:


For Christmas, I received Owly: Tiny Tales, Harvey Comics Classics: Baby Huey, Black Jack Vol. 1, and Little Lulu: The Expert. My dear mother gave me two packages, and each package had two books! I was very surprised and delighted.

Not only that, but I got a nice gift card from my boss, which I used to buy The Wicked Wiles of Iznogoud, and some books that aren't Prince Valiant Vol. 30comics but I'm very excited about anyway. One of them is Frontier Living, basically a history book detailing the lives and customs of American pioneers in the 18th century. This is a subject that has always fascinated me. It has many detailed illustrations, too, and will be an excellent reference source for me.

The last two books I got are royalty-free illustration collections from Dover. One is all about children, and the other one shows various line-engravings of trinkets and furniture from the Victorian era. Both books contain black and white, very old-style illustrations, which I will use both for reference and inspiration.

You'd think that would be all, but it's not: my design got chosen to be printed on as a sticker for my favorite comic book store, Tate's Comics, and I got a $20.00 gift certificate there.

I haven't spent it yet, but when I do, it will likely be spent on two manga volumes, since that's one of the few things I cannot usually get an Amazon discount on.

As far as comics are concerned, 2008 was a great year for me. I had the pleasure of meeting Andy Runton, Scott McCloud and Art Spiegelman and was able to add some real classics such as Little Orphan Annie and Prince Valiant to my collection.

With the releases of other priceless reprints such as Nancy, the first volume of The Don Rosa Library and Harvey Comics Classics Vol. 5: Harvey Girls among others, this year is looking quite promising as well. I look forward to writing reviews of them all!

-Marina
 

December 31st, 2008

Prince Valiant, Vol. 30: Arn, Son of Valiant - by Hal Foster @ 02:01 am

I'm at: Home
Feeling: hungry hungry

Prince Valiant Vol. 30Prince Valiant, Vol. 30: Arn, Son of Valiant - by Hal Foster

Volume: #30 of #50 | 48 pages | Fantagraphics Books

Rating: A+

Note: In case you never heard about this amazing comic strip by the great Hal Foster, here's an excerpt from its Wikipedia entry (and I recommend you check out the rest of the article):

Prince Valiant in the Days of King Arthur, or simply Prince Valiant, is a comic strip created by Hal Foster. It is an epic adventure that has told a continuous story for its entire history. Today it stands out for its realistic panoramas and intelligent and often humorous narrative, which appears below the pictures, without word balloons. The events shown are historically accurate, but taken from various different time periods ranging from the late Roman Empire to the High Middle Ages, with a few very brief scenes from more modern times commenting on the "manuscript".

Summary:  While I already had an idea of the premise of Prince Valiant, volume #30 was my true introduction to this excellent vintage comic strip.

The book begins as Val and Aleta are headed back to Camelot after a long journey. With them they are bringing Wojan, a kind, honest-looking evangelist monk, as well as his two shady-looking scholars, Sleath and Dustad.

Soon after their arrival, Val is summoned before King Arthur, to whom he must relay the news that he has failed in his mission to establish a safe road to Rome. Once the audience is over, Val heads for the stables, and on his way there he notices that a small crowd has gathered in the courtyard --servants who have interrupted their work to listen to Wojan's preachings.

At the stables, Val learns that his great war horse, Arvak, has become a man-killer again in his absence. But with the help of Aleta (and some oatcakes) Arvak is soon brought back to his old self. 

Meanwhile, more and more of King Arthur's knights and servants are neglecting their duties in order to listen to Wojan, and the king is not at all happy with the situation. A solution presents itself rather unexpectedly when Wojan's scholars declare that they will leave to preach in other places as soon as their are properly equipped with a wagon, horses, supplies, and gold. Reluctantly, King Arthur agrees.

Wojan and his scholars leave the castle, but to the amazement and shock of Val and King Arthur, they are followed by all of the castle servants, guards, hostlers --everyone who had been listening to the monk's compelling sermons.

As they travel, they add more followers to their already numerous group, and soon Wojan's hungry pilgrims are pillaging the land. This only adds to King Arthur's worries and to the urgency of the situation, but Val has an idea: since hunger is the driving force of these fanatics, perhaps food could help to make them listen to reason.

The focus of the rest of the volume is on young Arn, Prince Valiant's son, first as he becomes lost exploring the fens where his father spent his boyhood, then as he finds himself kidnapped and rescued in a rather amusing manner, and finally as he is promoted from page to novice, thus beginning his training as a warrior. His prowess and cunning both are soon put to the test in the events that follow.

The book contains pages 1321 (July 15, 1962) through 1372 (May 26, 1963.)

Some thoughts:  I had seen a couple of Prince Valiant pages on one of Will Eisner's books on sequential art; I forget exactly which one. And despite the poor quality of the black-and-white printing of those pages, I was as much taken by the beautiful artwork as by the original manner of storytelling.

Then I came across more of it online, in color, and liked it even better. After I had the good fortune of running into scans of certain scenes featuring Val and Aleta, I was absolutely, completely hooked, and felt I had to have this in my library.

Well... Easier said than done. Most Prince Valiant volumes, which were reprinted by Fantagraphics, are out of print, incredibly expensive (sometimes upwards of $150.00) and that is if you can even find the books. They're paperbacks too, hardly over 50 pages long, which only makes it harder to find them in decent shape.

But not all of them are unaffordable, so I decided to buy only certain volumes, at least for the time being. I've given up on buying the ones I want the most for now (such as Vol. #10 "Aleta" and Vol. #11 "Intrigues at Camelot") since they are especially rare and expensive, though not the rarest or most expensive of all. I'm sure a good chance to snag them will come along eventually.

Favorite page: Page #1344 (or page #20 in the book) in which Aleta, weary of court life, takes Arn along and goes to see Val. Their meeting is very sweet.

Favorite panel:
It'd have to be the last panel in the page mentioned above (panel #6, page #1344.) Val and Aleta are caught in a fond embrace as Arn scowls in the background.

What I liked best: The artwork --gorgeous, dramatic, detailed and adding to the excellent narrative with all sorts of little details. The panels are the kind you get absolutely lost in.

What I didn’t like:
I can't say there's anything other than the smell of cigarette smoke the book had, being secondhand, but that doesn't count, of course!

Verdict: A classic that puts any newspaper comic strip of today to shame, Prince Valiant is definitely worth hunting down --but upwards of $100.00 can be a painful price to pay for some of the rarest volumes. This ought to be reprinted again, simple as that. But I fear if they do reprint it, chances are it will either be recolored (ugh!) or in black and white. So, if I have the chance to get an extremely rare volume in really good condition at such a price, chances are I'd buy it. That ought to tell you something about how highly I think of this comic.

Buy this book on Amazon.com.

-Marina

 

November 16th, 2008

2008 Miami Book Fair International @ 10:07 pm

I'm at: Home
Feeling: calm calm

Okay, I usually post only comic and graphic novel reviews on this journal, but this is relevant enough. Last Saturday I went to the Miami Book Fair International for the first time. Not only it was fair's 25th anniversary, but it was also the first time it featured the Comix Galaxy. This included a series of comprehensive programs pertaining comics and graphic novels, which included panels by  well-known authors such as Art Spiegelman, Scott McCloud and many others, as well as a number of popular webcomic authors.

There was also a huge, air-conditioned tent for the comic book vendors to set up their booths in. There I was delighted to see Tate's Comics, my local comic book store (which, if you live in the area, you have got to check out!) At this tent you could snag a few goodies, which of course I did:



Above you can see a free Electric Girl comic, a Gemstone Publishing "Free Comic Book Day" sampler, a couple of manga sneak-peek compilations from Viz (Shojo Beat and Shonen Jump) two cute post-it pads and a catalog from Toon Books, a really nice Manga/Anime 101 booklet by Viz and a very interesting sampler of full-color graphic novels by Tokyopop (in particular, Luuna caught my eye; it is reminiscent of manga, eurocomics and Disney all at once and I will definitely consider purchasing it when it comes out in March.)

Tokyopop had its own booth. I was really disappointed that in that huge tent I could not find a single volume of Black Jack... But, I bought a few books anyway --The Spirit: Femmes Fatales by Will Eisner, Cowa! by Akiraya Toriyama and a compilation of Disney Christmas comics:
 

I will be reviewing the first two eventually... My to-do review list is getting long. Guess I just haven't been in a reviewing mood lately.

But I digress. I also got two bonus sketches/autographs there. The cute little sketch to the left was kindly given to me by Ray Friesen, the author of this comic. And I was delighted to meet Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum as well, authors of Unshelved. They were both so very nice and friendly, and were happy to sign the postcard they gave to me. Many thanks, guys!

You can click on either of these images to go to their respective websites, please do check them out:
 
PhotobucketPhotobucket

The highlights of the event were, for me, Art Spiegelman and Scott McCloud. Both of their panels were very interesting! I wished I had enough money to buy Spiegelman's Breakdowns, it looked great. Well, maybe some other time. He autographed Maus for me, anyway! And he drew a little sketch on each book, too --I was so delighted. He really was very nice.

During his panel, though, when I saw other people taking photos, I thought "What the heck, I'll take one for my blog, too." Well, when I did, he looked directly at me, hard:



Aah...!! Was he glaring at me? I really got a chill down my spine! In any case, I put my camera away! I'm sorry, Mr. Spiegelman! Am I just too paranoid? Sigh...

Here are the sketches he drew for me, by the way:


Before Spiegelman began to speak, Scott McCloud introduced him. I love the guy and his books, and meeting him was really what I looked forward to most of all. I got to shake his hand after Spiegelman's panel, and he had such a warm, strong, honest handshake that gave me a really good feeling. What a guy! I asked him if he could sign my books later, and he said he would.

Well, when I approached him again after his panel (which was also very interesting and a lot of fun) a Fair volunteer said a place had been set up for him to autograph books. Mr. McCloud then said that I would be first in line because he had promised me earlier that he'd sign them for me (nobody else had actually gone and asked him, I guess.) So I waited, along with another guy, for him to leave the conference room and go wherever the line would be. But then, that line was terribly long and I got lost among the people. I didn't want to bother anyone so I went to the end of the line. And wouldn't you know --he actually asked a volunteer to find me! It was a little embarrassing, but I sure felt special! Ha ha... It made me very happy. I had Making Comics and Understanding Comics with me, and he was nice enough to sign them both:


All in all the Fair was crazy fun, despite the long lines and waits (well, except in the case above, heh.) I may just go next year, too, provided their continue with this Comix Galaxy thing. Now, if only they'd invite Marjane Satrapi...!

-Marina
 

October 14th, 2008

The Shiniest Jewel: A Family Love Story - by Marian Henley @ 08:03 pm

I'm at: Home
Feeling: touched touched

The Shiniest Jewel: A Family Love StoryThe Shiniest Jewel: A Family Love Story - by Marian Henley

176 pages | Springboard Press

Rating: B+

Summary: The Shiniest Jewel: A Family Love Story, is a memoir. It isn't mushy, and it isn't gentle --it's raw, it's real, heartrending and ultimately uplifting.

In it, Marian, an unmarried cartoonist whose 50th birthday is looming, makes the life-changing decision of adopting a child from Russia.

This, however, is a feat that turns out to be much easier said than done, and it proves to be an emotional roller-coaster for Marian, one that is only made harder to bear when her father's health begins to deteriorate from complications after a surgery. Soon Marian finds herself on a race against time --one in which all she can do is wait and hope that the adoption process will be completed in time for her adopted son to meet her dying father.

Marian also finds her life rapidly changing when Rick, the kind, caring man she has been seeing for seven years, finally asks her to marry him. But can she get over their age difference (he's 13 years younger than she is) and her fear of being tied down?

Some thoughts: As someone who has been interested in adoption since childhood, I had a lot of interest in this book. I really did not imagine that adoption could be such a harsh, unfriendly process, and seeing what Marian has to go through before her son is finally by her side was at times appalling and at times heartbreaking.

Favorite panel:
Page #6 in page 109, which shows a door opening, and Igor's little leg as he comes into the room. I held my breath at that frame. Probably because I, too, hope to adopt a child someday, and wonder what it will be like, meeting him or her. I also liked page 29, which is a whole panel in itself. The falling snow was drawn with such care and attention to detail. The illustration captures the magic of the moment very well.

What I liked best: The story flows very smoothly, and the artist's visual metaphors are excellent, in particular those that show all the pains, ups and downs that her poor heart is made to go through. It was funny, tender, and accurate as well. 

What I didn’t like:
The art style, while definitely expressive and charming, was not my cup of tea. That's not to say I hated it --but it's what I liked the least about this book.

Verdict: Overall, this is a touching, poignant memoir that merits a place on your bookshelf right next to Craig Thompson's Blankets and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis. Worth reading and sharing with others.

This review is based on a complimentary copy kindly provided by publisher Springboard Press.

Buy this book on Amazon.com.

-Marina
 

October 10th, 2008

Baby & Me (Vol. 10) - by Marimo Ragawa @ 10:42 pm

I'm at: Home
Feeling: ecstatic gleeful

Baby & Me Vol.10Baby & Me (Vol. 10) - by Marimo Ragawa

Volume: #10 of #18 | 210 pages | Viz

Rating: B+ (The chapters dedicated to the Kimura family dragged on a little for me. Otherwise, this is a great volume.)

Summary:  On chapter #51, Mr. Mukai makes his second appearance, much to my delight. The mysterious and slightly creepy (but very devoted) director of Minoru's nursery school wants to cheer the children up on a dreary, rainy day. To this purpose he makes 200 little teru-teru bozu dolls, but, as usual, he only manages to scare the children instead.

Later, the teachers become curious as to how old Mr. Mukai is, and what he looks like behind the sunglasses that he never, ever takes off. But Mr. Mukai isn't about to tell them or show them his eyes, which only adds to their curiosity (personally, I'm suspecting he must be young and/or quite good looking, though I do wonder if we will get to find out before the series ends.)

Chapters #52 thru #54, a good chunk of this volume, are all about the Kimura family (Seiichi, Tomoko and baby Taichi.) There is intense bickering going on in the Kimura household, and as usual the cause of it are Seiichi's gambling habits. As in the past, Takuya and his family find themselves involved in the feud whether they like it or not.

Chapter #55 was my favorite. I just can't get enough of Ichika and Ma-Bo! In this chapter, their big brother Akihiro (Takuya's classmate) is sick with a cold. He's weak, dizzy and mildly delirious, and Ichika and Ma-Bo's well-meaning attempts at making him feel better all backfire. The situation looks bad for Akihiro until Takuya comes to the rescue of his feverish friend.

The last chapter concerns another classmate of Takuya's, Nanami Takenaka. He's a gentle boy who sorely feels the absence of his father, a seaman who is gone from home for months at a time. One day, when he wakes up, Nanami has an, erm, surprise... And it's one he needs to talk to his father about. With his father not there and his mother not being an option, the troubled boy goes over to Takuya's house, to talk to Takuya's father Harumi. Though Nanami's fears are apparently appeased, Takuya isn't very happy that his father and his classmate are keeping a secret from him...

Recommended to fans of: Aishiteruze Baby, Yotsuba&!

Some thoughts: In one of the author talks on the side of the page, Marimo Ragawa fumes about a letter than a Japanese reader sent her, asking her to "get her act together" and complaining that this series is turning into "Co-Stars & Me." While I think this reader was rather harsh and rude, I do have to agree that there was a lot more focus on the relationship between Takuya and Minoru in the first few volumes, and that seems to have come to a bit of a standstill. I'm alright with lots of side-characters so long as the stories that feature them prominently have some sort of impact in Takuya, Minoru or the relationship between them, at least in some or most of them. Many don't, even if Takuya and Minoru appear in them.

I can't complain about stories that only concern the Fujii household, however. Akihiro is cool, his older brother Tomoya is cool and hot, and little Ichika and Ma-Bo are as cute as Minoru, and even cuter when they are together. I can't get enough of them all.

Favorite chapter: Chapter #55, in which Akihiro is sick with a cold and he must endure what to him feels like merciless torture from his little brother and sister, who only mean to help him feel better. While poor Akihiro is trying to rest, Ichika and Ma-Bo break a mirror and a thermometer, then drop soup on the floor (and complain that they are hungry and there is nothing else to eat.) Takuya eventually comes to take care of things, but peace doesn't last very long. When Ichika cuts some of Ma-Bo's hair and her exhausted, angry older brother scolds her, she runs away, taking Minoru and Ma-Bo with her... to Takuya's house.

The chapter is very cute, as are all the stories featuring these two little ones. I hope Ragawa-sensei keeps drawing stories with them.

Favorite panel:
Panel #2 in page 153, in which Takuya suddenly takes Minoru over his knee and starts spanking him. That was so funny and cute and unexpected! The surprised look on Minoru's face was priceless, I loved it!

Favorite quote: "They're all going thwough pooberty. They're emotionally unstable." Ma-Bo to Harumi, referring to his older brothers and sisters. I love how intelligent Ma-Bo is and how well he talks even though he is younger than Minoru!

What I liked best: The chapter in which Akihiro is sick and Takuya comes over to take care of him. Also, in chapter #52, I liked when Seiichi asks Takuya to read him a letter that Tomoko sent him (Seiichi's staying over at the Enokis' because Tomoko kicked him out.) Whatever the note says, we never find out, but Takuya starts to cry, and after his father takes a look at the letter, he tells Seiichi that children shouldn't read such words. It was so funny!

What I didn’t like:
The whole thing about the Kimuras was a little too long for me.

Verdict: An enjoyable read. Baby & Me is one of the few manga that I can read again and again while I wait for the next volume to come out. If you've never taken a look at this series, do so. It's worth every penny and should be part of your collection.

Buy this book on Amazon.com.

-Marina
 

Tail of the Moon (Vol. 13) - by Rinko Ueda @ 01:59 am

I'm at: Home
Feeling: creative creative

Tail of the Moon Vol. 13Tail of the Moon (Vol. 13) - by Rinko Ueda

Volume: #13 of #15 | 210 pages | Viz

Rating: B

Summary: (Warning: Spoilers ahead!) Usagi, Mamezo and Yukimaru continue their journey to visit the hermit, with the added company of Kotaro "Taro" Fuma, the dangerous leader of the Fuma clan who is seeking Usagi to kill her (she has stolen a scroll from Odawara Castle.)

Neither Kotaro nor Usagi and her companions know of the other's identity, at least for a while. When Mamezo opens his cute big mouth to boast of Usagi's ninja skills, including her recent achievement at Odawara, Kotaro morphs into his comically ferocious clan-leader self and is ready to kill Usagi when two familiar faces show up to the rescue: Usagi's great-grandfather Master Tanba and her grandfather Sandayu! They soon make short work of Kotaro and there is a happy, tearful reunion.

Usagi and her companions are led to a small village built at the top of the mountain by the survivors of the Iga clan (which include Yuri and the elder.) Usagi is at first upset that they did not come to get her, and her grandfather tells her that he would have liked to, but Master Tanba wanted to watch Usagi stand on her own two feet and grow up. Which worked out well, I guess, though it still feels a little cruel to me. I suppose Usagi wouldn't have become independent any other way.

Sadly, Usagi's hopes that Hanzo may too be alive are soon dashed --he is not among the survivors. She also hears that Goemon has been stealing things at the capital, and follows her great-grandfather to find him and bring him to his senses.

When they find Goemon, who is stealing in order to rebuilt the Iga clan, he professes his love for Usagi once again, and tells her that he will only stop stealing if she marries him. Usagi is torn. She does not love Goemon that way and still cannot forget about Hanzo.

Adding to her worries is a sudden confession from Yukimaru, who claims to love her too, though he does not pressure her, as he merely wanted to be able to express his feelings to her. Usagi, touched by Yuki's devotion to her, makes the sudden decision of asking him to make her his wife (to which Yuki responds by fainting.)

Of course, Yukimaru agrees once he comes to. But while they still are at the capital, Usagi is kidnapped and taken to Ranmaru. Ranmaru also wants Usagi for himself, but he is not happy with what she has become (a real kunoichi.) He is about to kill her when a fire breaks out. Ranmaru leaves Usagi to die. Trapped, she eventually faints due to the smoke, only to be rescued by a mysterious masked man who returns her, unconscious, to Yukimaru. Though the man --a ninja-- leaves as quickly and silently as he arrived, Yukimaru is almost certain that he is Hanzo.

When Usagi awakes, she thinks Yuki saved her... and Yuki lets her believe it. How long will he be able to keep this secret to himself? Knowing him, probably not past the next volume's first chapter. But is that mysterious man really Hanzo, or will Usagi's hopes be dashed all over again?

Some thoughts: When Usagi cries because she could not fulfill her promise of giving birth to Hanzo's children and showing them to the hermit, I was reminded that "bearing Hanzo's child" is Usagi's main objective. Having Hanzo fall in love with her and marry her was an obvious, necessary  step, and indeed this much she has accomplished. But it made me realize that we should get to see Hanzo and Usagi's children provided the story has a happy ending. I can't imagine that Ueda-sensei wouldn't draw them since she has previously stated that she loves to draw little children. I wonder if they'll have a whole bunch of them? This has now become what I look forward to seeing the most!

Favorite chapter:
Chapter #85. It was the one that featured Kotaro Fuma the most and he was what I liked the most about this volume. He was very funny and a nice change from the previous tragic chapters.

Favorite panel: I liked page 75, which is a whole frame in itself. Usagi is hugging Goemon from behind and crying. It's a pretty frame, and I like the pleased look in Goemon's face.

Favorite quote: "You stare at me like that again and I'll △△ your ◯◯◯!!" a young Suzune to lechy toddler Hanzou in one of the "Little Hanzo" four-panel comic strips (yes, it was written with those symbols!)

What I liked best: Kotaro Fuma. Back in volume #12, he was so frightening and savage-looking in his first appearance, and so creepily friendly, loud and good-humored in the second, that I didn't know what to make of him. I expected him to become a terrible foe to Usagi and her companions. And well, he does almost kill Usagi, but that doesn't make him any less appealing. I love the guy! He's hysterical. His entire demeanor changes in the wink of an eye along with his mood --and he's either murderous, livid with rage, or amiable and full of enthusiasm; there's no middle ground with him. Watching not just his whole face, but his entire body language change along with his unstable moods is as entertaining as it is scary! I hope we get to see a lot more of him before this series ends.

Also, as in volume #12, I loved all the "Little Hanzo" four-panel comics.

What I didn’t like: Master Tanba is too cruel... I know Usagi had to grow up for better or worse when she thought there was no one left but her and Mamezo, but still. Living a whole year with the belief that everyone is dead. Usagi would have become more mature just by losing Hanzo. To think that almost everyone else was alive! (all the characters we care about anyway.) I would have been very resentful, had I been her. But I guess she was too happy to have everyone back to stay angry for very long.

Also... Yukimaru annoys me. As a man, I mean. He's the kind of man I can't stand, weak both in body and spirit, and even more delicate and whiny than some girls. He's sweet, and  a good guy, but I feel pity and even some contempt for him. Goemon would have been a better choice for Usagi, I think... Especially since she was excited about marrying him way back when, before she and Hanzo met.

Speaking of Goemon, poor Yuri. I wonder if she'll have enough time to win his heart before the series ends? She's so devoted to him. I'm sure she will, but at this point it may not be quite believable... Goemon has loved Usagi for so long!

Verdict: It was a good one. Feels a tad slow in comparison to the previous, very intense, emotionally charged volume --but only in comparison. I liked it. Just two more volumes and Tail of the Moon will be over... Overall, I'm glad I'm following this series until the end. It's among my favorite ones. I have to admit I'm with mangamaniac: why wasn't  it made into an anime?

Buy this book on Amazon.com.

-Marina</lj>