Sunday, June 17, 2007

Manga Monday 36: Death Note & More

A little early, but here we are...

Death Note (Volume 12)
Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

The final volume of Death Note has finally arrived. What the series has been building toward since volume eight has finally been realized, though the latter part of the series was by far the weakest. In its initial run, before the first climax, Death Note was on top of its game and was the best manga being published. Since then, its creators attempted to refresh the franchise with new antagonists that were pale versions of the original, in stories that were still good, but never reached that same level of quality. In this final volume of the series, Ohba and Obata return to form for the first third of the book, with action about as tense as its ever been. Unfortunately that too soon gives way to a ridiculously drawn out conclusion that ties things up in a nice little bow, while all but forgetting some fan favorite characters like Misa Amane in the process, practically discarding them. This last volume tries to explain too much and doesn't really build toward a climax as satisfying as back in volume seven, when the series should have ended, and would have gone out as one of the best manga series ever. Instead, it's limped to a finish with only a few final scenes to remind its audience why it was cool in the first place. The last few volumes have been completely forgettable, and while there were a few cool moments to hold us over, I'm glad that this series has finally reached its ultimate conclusion. C+

Hana-Kimi (Volumes 5 - 10)
Hisaya Nakajo

Like Death Note, I feel that the last few volumes of the series Hana-Kimi (For You In Full Blossom) have been drawn out in wake of its popularity. A new character has been introduced to the series, famous up-and-coming photographer Akiha Hara. Most of the feelings and interactions of the core cast have been put on the backburner as this strange new plotline has come into the mix, dispelling some of the most intriguing aspects of the series (like the relationship between Mizuki and Nakatsu) as it attempts to fold a new regular into the story. Fortunately, it seems that this storyline is merely a small sidestep from the big picture and just hasn't done as good of a job of advancing the characters as other plotlines have, like when Mizuki's best friend from America comes to stir things up in volumes six and seven. I can overlook a little sidestory as long as the focus returns to the more intriguing parts of the book after a short enough respite. And this new character may become a valuable asset to the series - it's hard to say at this point. But one thing stands true - Hana-Kimi is a fantastic shoujo title, even this far into the series. A

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