Welcome to Manga Monday! This week, reviews of Alien Nine and Drifting Classroom!
Alien Nine (Volumes 2 & 3)
The final two volumes of Alien Nine pick up where the first volume left off and continues to tell the story of a world being invaded by aliens, friendly and otherwise. It is a wacky manga that follows three girls who wear aliens as helmets to help them track down hostile entities at their school, and continues in the direction the last book took, into that of a darker tone that all but consumed these last two volumes. All three of the girls are changed by their roles, whether they're possessed by an alien who makes them act differently, or their body is mutated to reflect the bond with the creatures, the permanent changes the girls undergo all but wipe the "cuteness" from the book and leave things unsettling and kind of depressing. It's a great metaphor for the changes of adolescence and growing up, but the energy of the series overall was lost from that of the beginning and I kept wishing it would return, although once we grow up, we can not go back to childhood in the same way we experienced it before, so I suppose that the shift was all too appropriate. It was exciting when things began to move in a dark direction in the first book, but the series ultimately never recaptured the magic of those initial chapters, opting to warp the characters until they were disturbingly alien to the reader. Ultimately, I still really do like the series, but I feel the same way about it that I feel about Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials (a popular coming-of-age fantasy series, if you hadn't heard of it): the first volume is easily the best, and while the others go in an interesting adult direction, they're just not as fun and don't sustain the level of excitement. I do still highly recommend the series however, as it's an interesting progression and it is a great read despite its dark downward spiral. As with the first book, these final two are out of print, so getting your hands on the books require a little extra effort, but I think it's worth it. And they're pretty cheap through used booksellers on B&N and Amazon. B+
The Drifting Classroom (Volume 5)
Volume four of the craziest manga out there left readers on their edge of their seats...so does this one. We've had homicidal maniacs, food depletion, riots, giant space bugs, flesh-eating insects...and of course, crying, screaming, trying to kill fellow classmates, and all of the other staples of the series that occur in every installment. This writer's holding nothing back as it just keeps getting better and better. Don't be the last person who hasn't checked this series out! A-