Right Stuf, Inc. Announces Hetalia Axis Powers Volume 6

Right Stuf, Inc. has announced that the sixth volume of the Hetalia Axis Powers manga will be available on May 13, 2014. Through a special arrangement with TOKYOPOP and Hetalia‘s Japanese publisher Gentosha Comics, the first print run of this book will include an six-page color insert. Once the initial print run sells out, the volume will be transitioned to Right Stuf’s print-on-demand program.

The first five volumes of the Hetalia manga are available now. Volumes 1-6 can be ordered exclusively through rightstuf.com. For more information about Hetalia Axis Powers, visit hetalia.rightstuf.com.

About HETALIA AXIS POWERS VOLUME 6:

MICRONATION MANIA, NORDIC NONSENSE AND CATTY CRAZINESS!

All your favorite countries return for more silly adventures in the sixth installment of Hetalia Axis Powers! In this volume, Finland wants to make the Baltic Three a Baltic Duo, the micronations search far and wide for new friends, and Seychelles gets a mysterious visitor from the African mainland! Then the cats of Nekotalia return!

Manga Review: “Kare Kano” Volume One

Article first published as Manga Review: Kare Kano Volume One by Masami Tsuda on Blogcritics.

Kare Kano Volume One is a manga written by Masami Tsuda; Kare Kano is also known under the title of His and Her Circumstances. This manga was published in North America by Tokyopop in 2003 and is rated “T” for teens 13 and up. After reading this volume, I would agree with this rating.


The story focuses on Yukino Miyazawa, a vain high school freshman who strives to be perfect and wants to be the center of attention at school. However, Yukino has a secret; when she’s at home, she’s a spoiled slob who obsessively studies to maintain her grades. She was always at the top of her class in middle school, but was knocked down a peg when she entered high school, due to someone else beating her score on the entrance exam.

Soichiro Arima, a handsome and intelligent young man, is the one who beat Yukino’s score on the entrance exam and became the class representative; he gets all of the attention that Yukino craves so much. Yukino views Soichiro as an enemy, but gets an unexpected surprise when Soichiro confesses his feelings for her. Unfortunately, Soichiro learns Yukino’s secret, and the story follows what happens between Yukino and Soichiro, and how their interactions and relationship with each other evolves.

I saw the first episode of the His and Her Circumstances anime series before reading this manga volume, and discovered that the first chapter is essentially exactly the same as what appeared in the first episode of the anime. I enjoyed that episode enough that I wanted to read the manga, and I wasn’t disappointed in what I read.

The story ends up including twists that I wouldn’t have expected after seeing that first anime episode, but I thought these twists really added something to the series. From what I’ve read so far, the Kare Kano manga seems to have just the right blend of humor and romance to keep the reader interested in the story and characters. When I finished reading Volume One, my interested was piqued enough that I will need to find a copy of Volume Two in order to find out what happens next to these characters.

This volume also includes a one-shot manga story called The Tiger and the Chameleon: A Promise for One Week. It’s another story set at a high school that takes place between a female and a male character. The main female thinks she’s ugly, and she ends up sitting next to a boy who appears to be a juvenile delinquent. One day, after the boy accidentally breaks the girl’s glasses, he insists on being her eyes after she learns it will be a week before her glasses can be repaired. This story focuses on how people perceive others by the way they look. It’s a decent story, and it definitely works best as a one-shot.

Kare Kano seems to be off to a good start for a shojo series, and the storytelling that Tsuda uses helps to make it stand out from other similar series in this genre. If you enjoy reading shojo manga, then I would recommend giving Kare Kano a try.

I wrote this review after reading a copy of Kare Kano Volume One that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Manga Review: “Songs to Make You Smile”

Article first published as Manga Review: Songs to Make You Smile by Natsuki Takaya on Blogcritics.

Songs to Make You Smile is a compilation of one-shot manga written and illustrated by Natsuki Takaya, the creator of the popular Fruits Basket shojo manga series. This compilation was published in North America by Tokyopop in 2010. Songs to Make You Smile is rated “T” for teens; after reading this manga, I would agree with this rating.


There are four one-shot stories in this release, as well as a bonus chapter for Tsubasa: Those With Wings (which is another manga series by Natsuki Takaya). All four of the one-shot stories share a theme; they all deal with misunderstanding other people.

The first story is the “title story” for this compilation. A high school boy named Atsushi is misunderstood by his peers, because his face naturally has a mean look to it. A girl named Anzu has been teased since middle school, because the other girls though she looked spacey on purpose in order to attract guys. Atsushi, who is a vocalist and songwriter for a band, knows that Anzu is a fan on their music. He makes it his goal to write a song that will make Anzu smile.

The next story is “Ding Dong.” A teenage girl named Chisato is dealing with her father passing away in a car accident, and is living with the woman who became her stepmother three months before her father’s death. Chisato’s mother died when she was very young, and her father tried raising Chisato by himself. Chisato believes that neither her father nor her stepmother truly loved her.

“Voice of Mine” is the third story in the compilation. A teenager named Shu attends a music school, and is also the son of famous musicians. While Shu is succeeding on his own talents, many of the students believe he rides on his parents’ coattails and has pulled strings in order to get the attention that he does. One day, Shu meets Futaba, a viola student who is being bullied by her upperclassmen. The two of them support each other in their situations.

The final story is “Double Flower,” which focuses on a young man named Suguru who enjoys sewing and has made a career out of it. Suguru has been in love with Makoto, the daughter of the shop that purchases what he makes; however, he has never told her his feelings, because she’s im love with someone else. Suguru’s stepniece Aya comes over because she has run away from home, and it’s through her being around that Suguru starts thinking about his life.

The side story for Tsubasa: Those With Wings essentially takes elements from the Snow White fairytale and turn them on their head. Of the pieces included in this volume, this was my least favorite. While I have read the first volume of Tsubasa: Those With Wings and know that there is humor involved in that series, I thought this particular story just didn’t quite fit in with what I’ve read from this manga series.

When it comes to the other four stories, I thought Takaya did a fantastic job portraying each story in one chapter. I don’t know if she had intentionally included stories with a similar theme in this volume or not, but I really appreciate the fact that this compilation doesn’t simply feel like several unrelated stories thrown together that don’t have a theme to tie them together. The only exception was the Tsubasa: Those With Wings side story; that one does feel like it was simply tacked on to the end of the volume to add some more pages.

If you’re familiar with the Fruits Basket series, then you will definitely recognize Takaya’s art style in this volume. That’s not to say that she simply uses the exact same art style in all of her work, but there are definite characteristics in how she draws her characters that make her style recognizable.

If you’re a fan of Fruits Basket or any other of Natsuki Takaya’s work, I think you will also enjoy reading Songs to Make You Smile.

I wrote this review after reading a copy of Songs to Make You Smile that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Manga Review: “Angelic Layer” Volume Five

Article first published as Manga Review: Angelic Layer Volume Five by CLAMP on Blogcritics.

Angelic Layer Volume Five is a manga by CLAMP, and it was published in North America by Tokyopop in 2003. The rating for Angelic Layer is “A,” which means the series is suitable for all ages. After reading the whole series, I can say that I agree with this rating.


Volume Five continues exactly where Volume Four ended, and it follows Misaki through the remainder of the national tournament. During the tournament, she must battle against two unexpected opponents. I’m sorry for the lack of detail here, but saying too much more will give away spoilers.

However, I can now say with certainty I was correct about the identity of the mysterious dark-haired woman who kept appearing throughout the series. I have to say that since I was able to tell early on who she was supposed to be, it made the revelation of her identity in this volume feel anti-climactic. I also thought her motivations for trying to stay out of sight and not interact with Misaki didn’t entirely work for me.

In my review of Volume Four, I also mentioned that I was starting to suspect what Icchan’s motives were in regard to Misaki; this volume also proved to me that my suspicions were correct. At least it took me a bit longer in the series to figure out his secret in comparison to the secret of the dark-haired woman.

Volume Five was another quick read, due to the amount of action panels that appear in this volume for the national tournament. The only time the volume truly slows down is right at the end of the main story, when the dark-haired woman’s identity is revealed. There are also a couple of chapters that take place after the main story, and they don’t rely on the action panels.

Angelic Layer is a decent manga series for the audience it’s being aimed at and for its short length. However, I wish there had been a way for CLAMP to make the story last a little longer. Even in this final volume, the overall story felt rather rushed.

Readers who have read and enjoyed the previous four volumes of Angelic Layer should be satisfied with how the series concludes. While the series did get a little better for me as it progressed, I still have to say that Angelic Layer isn’t quite as strong of a manga series as some of the other CLAMP titles that I have read.

I wrote this review after reading a copy of Angelic Layer Volume Five that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Manga Review: “Angelic Layer” Volume Four

Article first published as Manga Review: Angelic Layer Volume Four by CLAMP on Blogcritics.

Angelic Layer Volume Four is a manga by CLAMP, and it was published in North America by Tokyopop in 2003. The rating for Angelic Layer is “A,” which means the series is suitable for all ages; from what I’ve read of the series, I would agree with this rating.


Volume Four begins with Misaki qualifying for the national tournament. However, before she goes to the tournament, Icchan (the crazy scientist who got Misaki started in Angelic Layer) gives her a DVD to watch. On the DVD is footage of an Angel named Wizard in an Angelic Layer tournament.

Misaki goes to the national Angelic Layer tournament, and she is up first. Her opponent ends up being Ohjiro Mihara, and he is the deus for Wizard. The remainder of the volume focuses on Misaki’s bout with Ohjiro.

The mysterious dark-haired woman appears again, and the reader actually gets to see her face. With what I read in this volume, I’m still convinced that I’ve guessed who she is; however, I will not name who I think she is, because I don’t want to wander into spoiler territory. The mysterious woman knows Icchan, and now I’m starting to suspect that I have an idea as to his motivations in regards to Misaki. Since there’s only one volume of Angelic Layer left, I’m very curious to see if I have made correct guesses for both of these characters.

One thing I really noticed in this volume is the fact that the themes of determination and believing in yourself are emphasized very strongly, especially during Misaki’s battle with Ohjiro. While these themes have appeared in the earlier volumes of the series, they seem to be utilized a lot in Volume Four.

The fourth volume of Angelic Layer is a very quick read, due in large part to the number of action panels that appear during the national Angelic Layer tournament. In a lot of ways, I still believe that this series feels rushed, and I’m a little afraid that Volume Five will ultimately rush the series to its conclusion. I hope I’m wrong on this, though.

If you’re a reader who has already read the previous three volumes of Angelic Layer and enjoyed the series, you should be able to also enjoy reading Volume Four. While I’ve come to appreciate this series better than when I first started reading it, I still think it’s not quite as strong of a series as the other CLAMP titles that I have read.

I wrote this review after reading a copy of Angelic Layer Volume Four that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Manga Review: “Alice in the Country of Hearts” Volume One

Article first published as Manga Review: Alice in the Country of Hearts Volume One by QuinRose on Blogcritics.

Alice in the Country of Hearts Volume One is a manga with the story by QuinRose, and the art done by Soumei Hoshino. This volume was released in North America by Tokyopop in 2010. The rating for Alice in the Country of Hearts is “OT” for older teens 16 and up; after reading this first volume, I would agree with this rating.


As the title of the series implies, it’s influenced by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The story begins with a girl named Alice Liddell being woken up from a nap by her older sister. Alice believes her sister is an ideal lady, but that she herself is not. When her sister leaves to get a deck of cards to play a game of cards, Alice lays back down to take another quick nap.

Alice is roused by a talking white rabbit wearing clothes. The rabbit chastises her, saying she should be chasing him now. Suddenly, the rabbit turns into a man wearing rabbit ears, and he scoops Alice up. He takes her to a hole and throws her down. The two go down the hole together and fall into Wonderland. The man in the rabbit ears makes Alice take a special medication and introduces himself as Peter White. As Peter leaves, he tells Alice that the game has begun.

As Alice tries to figure out what’s going on, she wanders onto the property of the Hatters. The gate is guarded by the “Bloody Twins” Tweedle Dee and Dum, Elliot March (a man with a pair of brown hare ears), and Blood Dupre (the one who rules the Hatter’s Mansion area and is a mafia boss). Blood saves Alice when the Bloody Twins and Elliot threaten to harm her, and Blood starts flirting with her.

After running off from the Hatter Mansion, Alice comes to the clock tower, where she encounters Julius Monrey. When he realizes that Alice is an outsider, he explains to her the world of Wonderland, about some of the inhabitants and their connections, and also explains that she has to interact with the people in Wonderland in order to fill a vial that Peter White left her. Once the vial is full, Alice can return home.

In this volume, Alice also encounters Ace (a knight of Heart Castle), Vivaldi (the Queen of Hearts), Nightmare (he is the one who allowed Peter to bring Alice to Wonderland), and Boris Airay (who is basically a punk version of the Cheshire Cat).

I found Alice in the Country of Hearts Volume One to be a very fascinating read. Once the reader truly begins understanding the characters and interactions in Wonderland, the reader is left wondering if there’s truly anyone outside of Alice who is a “good guy” and is someone that she can trust. It’s actually a bit of a head trip, but I tend to like stories that make me think a little more. Also, while you can tell that the manga is based on Lewis Carroll’s classic story, there’s enough differences that are introduced in this telling that make it stand out from its inspiration.

I would definitely like to read more of Alice in the Country of Hearts in the future, in order to find out whether or not the series continues to live up to the promise that is shown in Volume One.

I wrote this review after reading a copy of Alice in the Country of Hearts Volume One that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Manga Review: “Angelic Layer” Volume Three

Article first published as Manga Review: Angelic Layer Volume Three by CLAMP on Blogcritics.

Angelic Layer Volume Three is a manga by CLAMP, and it was published in North America by Tokyopop in 2002. The rating for Angelic Layer is “A,” which means the series is suitable for all ages; from what I’ve read of the series, I would agree with this rating.


The major focus of Volume Three is on the Angelic Layer finals. Over the course of this volume, there are two complete battles and the start of a third. Misaki is featured in the first complete battle and the third battle; Hatoko Kobayashi and Sai Jounouchi are the competitors in the second battle.

Early on in this volume, there is some character development for Misaki’s friend, Koutarou Kobayashi. It was nice to start seeing a little more dimension being added to his character. Unfortunately, their mutual friend, Tamayo, is still rather one-dimensional. It seems that Tamayo is meant to be the comic relief of the series, so I suspect that she may not get much more in the way of any real character development.

The mysterious dark-haired woman who appeared in Volume Two makes more appearances in Volume Three. From some things being said, I think it’s become rather clear who this mysterious woman is supposed to be. I had a feeling of what her identity was by the end of Volume Two, and I believe Volume Three basically clinched my suspicions. I have a feeling her identity will be revealed in either Volume Four or Volume Five. I’m interested to see whether or not I accurately guessed her identity.

I admit that I have started enjoying this series more than I did when I wrote my review for Volume One. However, one thing I’ve discovered as I’ve continued reading is that the series is feeling rather rushed. Knowing that there’s only two volumes remaining, I suspect that this rushed feeling will persist for the rest of the series.

A reader commented on my review of Volume One that they hadn’t read the manga, but that they had seen the anime adaptation. The commenter said that the story they had seen included CLAMP’s philosophy on human relationships, fate, and the destiny of mankind. From these three volumes, I can kind of see the idea of human relationships, and perhaps an argument could even be made for fate. However, I’m not seeing anything about the fate of mankind. Perhaps all of these concepts will be hit on with full force in the final two volumes of the series. If they don’t, then I’ll be a little disappointed; I really want Angelic Layer to be more than simply another “fighting” manga series.

I wrote this review after reading a copy of Angelic Layer Volume Three that my older daughter checked out through the King County Library System.

Manga Review: “Angelic Layer” Volume Two

Article first published as Manga Review: Angelic Layer Volume Two by CLAMP on Blogcritics.

Angelic Layer Volume Two is a manga by CLAMP, and it was published in North America by Tokyopop in 2002. The rating for Angelic Layer is “A,” which means the series is suitable for all ages; from what I’ve read so far, I would agree with this rating.


This volume of Angelic Layer continues right where the first volume ended. Misaki continues to battle in the Angelic Layer tournament; during this volume, she continues her battle with Ringo Seto, and she also battles against Arisu Fujisaki and Madoka Fujisaki, as well as an unnamed opponent, for the first time.

A new character named Ohjiro Mihara is introduced, and he’s one of the strongest competitors in Angelic Layer. He attends the tournament as a spectator, rather than as a participant, and he appears to have an interest in Misaki. There’s also a mysterious dark-haired woman hanging around and watching Misaki from the shadows.

Icchan, as well as Ohjiro, make some comments in this volume about Misaki that makes it look like there’s more to Icchan’s interest in Misaki than something completely random and out of the blue. Even Misaki’s aunt makes a cryptic comment to herself that seems to be dropping a hint at something. I have a feeling it will make sense as the Angelic Layer series continues.

I have to say that Volume Two of Angelic Layer is an improvement over the first volume. I wish that at least one hint to Icchan’s interest in Misaki that was dropped in this volume could have been worked into one of the chapters in the first volume. If it hadn’t been for the fact that my older daughter checked out a copy of Volume Two and had it around the house for me to read, I wouldn’t have had any idea there was more to the story than what was shown on the surface in the first volume.

The art in this volume of Angelic Layer is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some characters who are consistently drawn with a lot of detail; the other characters are either hit or miss when it comes to details, or they’re drawn with very little in the way of detail. I did notice in this volume that there are a couple of panels where the reader sees Icchan in profile, and he’s shown as having a nose; however, whenever he’s shown from the front, he still lacks a nose.

While there’s been some improvement in the story and art of this volume of Angelic Layer, I still stand by my assertion in my review of Volume One that this series is one of the weaker ones that I have read from CLAMP. However, I think that Angelic Layer is a manga series that younger readers will be able to find some enjoyment in.

I wrote this review after reading a copy of Angelic Layer Volume Two that my older daughter checked out through the King County Library System.

Manga Review: “Angelic Layer” Volume One

Article first published as Manga Review: Angelic Layer Volume One by CLAMP on Blogcritics.

Angelic Layer Volume One is a manga by CLAMP, and it was published in North America by Tokyopop in 2002. The rating for Angelic Layer is “A,” which means the series is suitable for all ages; after reading this volume, I would agree with this rating.


The protagonist of Angelic Layer is Misaki Suzuhara, a middle school freshman. She’s a young woman who is easily distracted and can be rather flaky and a little too trusting at times. She has just arrived in Tokyo to live with her aunt in order to attend a better junior high school. When she arrives in Tokyo, she sees a competition going on between two robotic-looking toys. It turns out she’s watching a competition for Angelic Layer, the biggest rage in the toy industry.

As the competition finishes on the screen, Misaki is approached by a man wearing glasses and a lab coat. He tells her to call him Icchan, and he takes her to a nearby toy store in order to purchase an Angelic Layer egg and the various accessories; this causes Misaki to spend all of her money.

After Misaki customizes her angel, which she has named Hikaru, she meets a preschooler named Hatoko Kobayashi who is really into Angelic Layer. Hatoko’s older brother, Koutarou, is in Misaki’s class, and they become friends; Misaki also becomes friends with Koutarou’s friend, Tamayo Kizaki.

Misaki keeps running into Icchan, and he keeps giving her advice and help for Angelic Layer. Misaki learns that she controls her angel telepathically through an attachment called an “angel cord.” After a couple of hours of practice, Icchan has Misaki enter a contest. Misaki manages to win, and gets her Angel Card. At the end of the first volume, Misaki competes in an Angelic Layer tournament.

It seems like CLAMP was trying to set up Angelic Layer to become a “fighting” manga property in the vein of Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dragon Drive, etc. My biggest problem with this series is in the initial setup, because no motivation is given as to why Icchan suddenly approaches Misaki out of the blue. Yes, he probably saw her getting excited when she watched the tournament on the screen at the beginning of the story, but is that truly enough motivation for him?

Later in the volume, before Misaki has truly done much competitively, Icchan believes that she’s worth watching. My question is: Why? I have a hard time buying the setup for this series, and I really have a hard time caring whether or not Misaki does well in the Angelic Layer tournaments. My 14-year-old daughter also read this volume and said that she really liked it, but for the life of me, I really can’t see why she likes it so much.

Also, I have to say that of the CLAMP series that I have had a chance to read at least one volume of, Angelic Layer is the weakest series that I have read so far. In my opinion, not only is the story on the weak side, but the art of Angelic Layer is also weak for CLAMP’s standards. The thing that bothers me the most with the art is that all of the characters have a normal look to them except for Icchan; for some reason, Icchan is not shown as having a nose. Without a nose, how do Icchan’s glasses stay on? Compared to CLAMP’s other work, there doesn’t appear to be much detail used for the art of Angelic Layer.

Perhaps younger readers will have a greater appreciation of Angelic Layer than I do. Also, readers who like series like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! might also find some enjoyment out of reading Angelic Layer.

I wrote this review after reading a copy of Angelic Layer Volume One that my older daughter checked out through the King County Library System.

Manga Review: “Dragon Knights” Volume One

Article first published as Manga Review: Dragon Knights Volume One by Mineko Ohkami on Blogcritics.

Dragon Knights Volume One is a manga by Mineko Ohkami, and it was published in North America by Tokyopop in 2004. The series is rated “T” for teens 13+; after reading this volume, I would agree with this rating.


The series focuses on three young men going on an epic quest: Rune, Rath and Thatz. Rath likes to hunt demons, Rune is the serious member of the group, and Thatz has weaknesses for both treasure and food.

At the beginning of the volume, these three young men have completed the task set before them by the Dragon Lord; they retrieved the head of Nadil, the Demon Lord and arch-enemy of the Dragon Lord. This volume sees the band of adventurers getting sidetracked from returning to Draqueen, the capital. They are being sidetracked by various demons trying to take the head of Nadil away from the heroes.

From reading this volume, I really get the impression that Ohkami had meant for Dragon Knights to be more comedic than serious in nature. However, I really didn’t find the humor or jokes in this volume to be particularly funny. In some respects, the fact that the jokes are not funny could have been caused by whoever translated this manga volume rather than the original mangaka. However, I have no idea whether this was truly the case or not.

The way the story is told and illustrated, I had a hard time keeping up with what was going on and who the characters were. As they’re depicted, the scenes in this manga volume feel rather rushed, which makes it hard for anything to truly sink in with the reader as they’re reading the story.

I also wasn’t terribly impressed by the art in Dragon Knights. Rune, Rath and Thatz all have a “bishonen” (“beautiful boy”) look to them, although Rune is the one who looks most like a girl and is forced to crossdress in a couple of the stories. Some of the art also looks a little rough, but I’m not sure if this is how Ohkami actually drew some of these panels, or if Tokyopop didn’t reproduce these panels as well as they could have.

Overall, I wasn’t terribly impressed with Dragon Knights, and I wouldn’t be in any rush to read future volumes of the series. However, manga readers who enjoy non-serious fantasy stories with “bishonen” heroes will probably find some enjoyment in Dragon Knights.

I wrote this review after reading a copy of Dragon Knights Volume One that I checked out through the King County Library System.