Deliciously clever, Food Wars caught me by surprise when I first read it. While initially I was not blown away by the first couple of volumes and almost thought about stopping; however as I read on I found that I could not put it down, and that it became more and more exciting. This is a series that becomes better the more you read it, presenting a variety of interesting male and female characters and interesting and unusual dishes that the characters create. It also benefits from exciting art, a suspenseful story, and creative use of food which all make this series stand out for other Shonen (a genre of Japanese boy comic’s often emphasizing battles and friendship) series. I quickly got hooked as I continued; wanting to know what happens next, what exciting dishes would be featured next storyline, and how each character would face their next challenge.
Food Wars is a series that continues to grow, because its main characters are also growing. As the series advances we get to see Soma Yukihara grow for a secondary chef working at his genius father’s restaurant, to a creative and motivated culinary student who maintains his helpfulness and humility. We also get to see the nervous and looked down upon Megumi gain the confidence to succeed with her heart-warming cooking. Other chef’s also develop as well, and a good amount of time is spent on the female characters and their growth which is highly unusual and welcome change for shonen series which are often highly male centric. Despite many of the character’s starting fantastic skills change and growth is handled as a thing that happens overtime with learning and experience, making being defeated or losing very real possible. Soma in particular continues to lose to his father in cooking contests, but he always gets up even when he doesn’t win, continue to try his best, and to learn from his mistakes and defeats which motivate him to continue to work hard. These aspects of challenges and danger are what allow this series to be far more suspenseful, and surpass many other shonen series outcome seems more assured. As a book that I just couldn’t put down I can’t recommend Food Wars enough.
This Darkness Mine is the sort of book that is either a love or hate experience. This Darkness Mine focuses on teenager Sasha who believes that their twin sister Shanna is living inside her heart after learning about her. It is a book marked by its unreliable narrator, realism, and gritty tone as the uptight and by the book Sasha tries to find an identity for herself while supporting her sister’s needs. This story’s often difficult tone will either seem refreshingly realistic, or unpleasant and hard to stomach. While I enjoyed the book’s depiction of disability, I had a very hard time connecting with the lead character. I’m aware though that it can be very difficult to balance the elements of realism, while maintaining a character the reader invests in and that some readers will really enjoy the tone this story much more than I did.
The most engaging elements of realism for me were the ones describing her experiences with illness and the relationship with her friends within the medical facility. It’s portrayal of disabled teens facing the possibility of death as well rounded, often bitter, and desiring to experience relationships was a nice change from the common pity, being helpless, and the overcoming disability to find happiness narrative tropes. These strengths, however could not overcome for me Sasha’s mean spirited behavior and deep sarcasm which makes it hard to really root for her. Likewise the rest of the text such as Sasha’s relationships with friends, family, and romantically are filled with a lot of drama and come off as too cruel for me to want to see her succeed. I was hoping that she was have some sort of redemption or major struggle thought taught her to be a better, instead of the story just ending without a sign of her growth. For many readers this might not be an issue, but personally I don’t think I enjoyed this book as much as I wanted to.
The Prince and the Dressmaker is a graphic novel that immediately got my attention. Without even knowing what it was about and just flipping through the story I knew that I had read at some point. After speaking to my father who is a Comic’s studies professor though, I knew it was a book I just had to read right away. The story of the dressmaker Frances who is chosen to secretly make dresses for the kingdoms gender queer (neither identifying as man or woman) prince Sebastian so that he can go in disguise as the fashionista Lady Crystallia. This graphic novel didn’t disappoint and has been one of the best comics I have read all year.
The characters are what make this story shine so much. The first element of the characters that needs mentioning is their designs, which are fantastic. The use of distinct and exaggerated character design matches the story well and helps to highlight the stand out nature of Sasha’s outfits. The next element that makes this graphic novel so great is how invested the books makes us as the reader in the characters. Even when they are clearly doing the wrong thing and things are going wrong, you want them to succeed. We want Sebastian to be free to be their self without judgement and to marry for love, we want the Frances to meet the professional ballet fashionista and continue being friends with the Sebastian, and we want the king to realize who his child is and affirm him rather than pressuring him. Each character has an ultimate goal and complex path towards that goal. While the story structure is not too unusual, who the characters are and the way the characters make it to those goals is not straight forward and allows this graphic novel to stand out as unconventional and creative.
Sonic the Hedgehog has always held a special place in my heart. Receiving my Sega Genesis with a copy of Sonic 1 and 2 when I was young was life changing experience. I caught the Sonic bug and it wasn’t long before I got into Sonic stories and the Archie Sonic comics. The Archies Sonic comic was my first major comic book series and one that for years I followed it loyally. Besides the main heroes, Archie provided a fleshed out world with a number of interesting original characters and a great ongoing storylines. While not loyally reading the newer Archie Sonic comics and skipping many of the newer Sonic games, when I found out that Archie’s Sonic comic was coming to an end it was a very sad moment for me. The story was left unfinished and abruptly ended within a very well received storyline which was disappointing.
When it was announced that IDW was picking up the Sonic licenses for comics I didn’t know what to expect. Would it be a reboot? Would it include a similar world to the previous comics? What would it be about? And most importantly was it going to be any good? Thankfully after picking up the new Sonic Comic Series I’m pleased to report that Sonic is back and better than ever. The comic does a number of things right, and is a worthy successor to Archie comics.
The new Sonic series makes the right choice in being a continuation of the Sonic story. The comic comes with a brief description of the basic plot, but the comic assumes that the reader knows about Sonic and/or doesn’t need a major recap. Not only does it not reboot the Sonic’s story, but it draws influence from all the previous works that preceded it. The story feels like it could fit in with all the previous interpretations of Sonic, while having its own feel and not feeling like it is rehashing. Sonic continues to be an arrogant, but loveable character who teams up each story with another hero and local defense forces to defeat a mysterious menace sending robots to attack towns. The story does a great job not only portraying characters, but also improving them. This is especially noticeable with Amy Rose who is given much more of a sassy and heroic personality outside of just having a crush on Sonic. The art for these stories also really sell them. The characters designs are dynamic, and allow for a lot of action and movement. The bright color scheme and the inclusion of a variety of evil robots and unique towns’ people filling the page make the pages feel full of life. This reboot breathes new life into the Sonic comic series, and is well worth going down to the local comic book store to purchase (across from the Old Town Newhall library we have an amazing comic book store Brave New World ((link included in the Sonic Logo)).