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10:00 PM on 11.28.2014

Review: Ranma 1/2 Set 3

After reviewing Ranma 1/2 set 2 earlier this month, I knew it was time to hunker down and dig deep. This series had a seven season run, and while this latest re-issue from Viz Media has resequenced the episodes to align more ...

Jayson Napolitano


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Review: Ranma 1/2 Set 2 photo
Review: Ranma 1/2 Set 2
by Jayson Napolitano

Ranma 1/2 was my first anime. Sure, I might have watched a few feature-length titles like Ninja Scroll or Akira before sitting down to watch Ranma 1/2 with my half-Japanese friend who was always up on the latest games and anime out of Japan, but it was really the first anime series that I was exposed to, and it set the stage for what I’d come to expect from anime thereafter.

I have to say that Ranma 1/2 set that bar pretty high, as I found myself disappointed by a lot of what my local Blockbuster had on offer at the time, but as Karen noted in her review of Set 1, even the Ranma 1/2 episodes that were widely available in the 1990s were scattered across a few (and expensive!) VHS tapes that offered an incomplete presentation of the series, so I relish the opportunity to really dig in with Viz Media’s re-release of the series given how rare and expensive their previous DVD releases have become.

So, does Set 2 go above and beyond what Set 1 was able to offer? I believe it does, but I also think this is the point at which potential fans will need to make the decision as to whether or not to continue on with the lengthy series.

 

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Review: Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair photo
Review: Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
by Josh Tolentino

I almost don't want to be writing this review.

That's because Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is quite a lot like its predecessor, Trigger Happy Havoc. That means it's one of the few games where "spoilers" really matter, and the more I say about it, the more I risk lessening the experience for potential players. 

Here then, is the quick advice: If you played and enjoyed Trigger Happy Havoc, go get Danganronpa 2 now. It's everything the first one was, and more.

But if you're new to the series, get the first game and play through that before starting off with this one, for despite a premise and cast that's friendly to series newbies, Goodbye Despair works best when taken as sequel to Trigger Happy Havoc

And if you're still hungry for more info, keep reading. No spoilers, of course. That path leads only to despair.

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Review: Persona 3 The Movie: #2 Midsummer Knight's Dream photo
Review: Persona 3 The Movie: #2 Midsummer Knight's Dream
by Elliot Gay

Despite its pacing problems and general lack of an overarching story, I enjoyed Persona 3 The Movie: #1 Spring of Birth. As far as animated film adaptations of long games go, I think it did a novel job of compressing hours of gameplay and story into about 90 minutes. The first film had the unlucky task of handling the least interesting part of Persona 3's tale, the intro hours, but director Noriaki Akitaya and the production team managed to shift the focus enough that it totally worked. Fortunately for new director Tomohisa Taguchi and for us viewers, the next chunk of Persona 3 is far more intriguing.

Picking up after the end of Spring of Birth, Midsummer Knight's Dream begins with the crew taking down yet another large Shadow, only now with the help of Mitsuru and her powerful ice Persona. With all the hard work they've put into their after school monster hunting activities, it's about time for some R&R. Summer vacation is in full swing, which means its time for an all expenses paid island trip Yuki, Junpei, and Aikhiko go on an adventure to pick up girls, things go poorly, and the three young men are left to soak in their own self-pity. This doesn't last too long, as Yuki notices a beautiful blonde-haired girl staring off into the ocean, dress flowing in the wind. Who is she, and where did she come from...?

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Review: Kamen Rider Battride War II photo
Review: Kamen Rider Battride War II
by Salvador GRodiles

Back when Kamen Rider Battride War was first announced, many toku fans were excited over the fact that they were getting a Dynasty Warriors-like game that featured their favorite Heisei Riders from Kamen Rider Kuuga through Wizard (Gaim didn't exist back then). At the time, Namco Bandai seemed like they had a good tokusatsu video game on their hands. However, the company made a slight error when they commissioned Eighting (Marvel vs. Capcom 3, the Kamen Rider Climax Hero series) to develop the game instead of Omega Force (the Dynasty Warriors series).

While Eighting's known for creating many interesting fighting games and multiplayer brawler titles, the team rarely tackles the hack ‘n’ slash genre. Due to Eighting's inexperience in this department, the first Battride War game felt like an underwhelming title. Even though the team managed to almost get each Rider’s fighting style right, the game’s small character and boss roster prevented Battride War from reaching its true Form. Thankfully, the title had a few fun aspects for Kamen Rider fans, which gave players hope that Eighting could learn from their mistakes when they complete Battride War's next installment.

Since the development team have updated a few of game’s key elements, Kamen Rider Battride War II might be the Rider Musou-like adventure that we’ve been waiting for.

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Review: World End Economica Episode 1 photo
Review: World End Economica Episode 1
by Brittany Vincent

[Originally posted at Destructoid.]

Visual novels are a finicky medium. It's difficult enough to drum up interest because of their exotic origins, and harder still to find an audience due to their nature -- it's a bunch of reading. And you can't always be sure that the story you're reading is going to be one that you'll want to invest dozens of hours in. On one hand, you've got a menagerie of engaging tales that capture the imagination and ensnare the reader until the very end. On the other, you've got a set of stories with dull, flavorless dialogue and uninteresting protagonists.

Why waste time on a less-than-stellar adventure when there are juicier ones at your disposal? I find myself asking this question and others when it comes to World End Economica Episode 1, Spice and Wolf author Isuna Hasekura's three-part visual novel series that follows a teenager who runs away from home and attempts to make a living for himself in the world of day trading. It's ambitious in scope, but ultimately ends up failing due to a lack of interactivity and a protagonist that's difficult to root for.

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Review: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle photo
Review: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle
by Brittany Vincent

[As originally posted at Destructoid.]

How do you like your fighting games? Personally, I like mine with a sizable dose of pop culture references and eye-melting color palettes infused with a healthy dose of humor that's hilariously self-aware. That's what you get with JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle, the most gleefully insane anime-inspired fighter the genre has seen in some time.

Distilling a good 25 years' worth of story arcs from the wildly popular JoJo's Bizarre Adventure into an accessible fighter that anyone can enjoy is no easy feat, and yet developer CyberConnect2 has done an admirable job that should be praised. Even if your heart is as black as professional jerk Dio Brando's.

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Review: Princess Nine photo
Review: Princess Nine
by Karen Mead

At the beginning, I loved Princess Nine. It may be a cliche to say "I laughed, I cried!", but the fact is, I really did laugh and cry. The show seemed to be capable of doing something nigh-impossible: present a story unabashedly about girl power, without demonizing the male characters and rehashing the war between the sexes. Instead of getting bogged down in just dealing with sexism, the show transcends the gender gap and becomes about universal human struggles that apply to everyone: wisdom versus ignorance, passion versus apathy, and fear of the unknown versus the courage to try something new and dangerous. There's an awful lot going on in Princess Nine, and for a little while there, I was in anime heaven.

Then I saw the final third of the series -- and suddenly, I wanted to break all the discs over my knee and throw the pieces into an industrial wood chipper. However, a cooler head prevailed, as I eventually realized that despite my disappointment with the final arc, this is a quality release that deserves a place on many fans' shelves.

Besides, I have no idea where to find a wood chipper.

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Review: Nekomonogatari Black photo
Review: Nekomonogatari Black
by LB Bryant

I've been a fan of the Monogatari series since Bakemonogatari and have followed the entire franchise since the start. Nekomonogatari: Black came out in late 2012 and was widely accepted by fans as a very pleasant addition to the franchise that returned to the roots that had been established in the first series but mostly abandoned in Nisemonogatari

Serving as a prequel to the first series, Nekomonogatari: Black tells the story of that fateful Golden Week when Araragi discovers that he might have feelings for the class president Tsubasa Hanekawa. Before he can truly explore those feelings though he learns of her troubled home life. That issue has to be pushed aside however because Hanekawa has also been possessed by a ghost known as the Sawari Neko which is causing her to attack random people around the city. 

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Review: Ranma 1/2 Set 1 photo
Review: Ranma 1/2 Set 1
by Karen Mead

The wacky ensemble comedy of Ranma 1/2 occupies an interesting niche in Western anime fandom. The show wasn't likely to be someone's "first anime," in the way that contemporaries Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z generally were, but it was very likely to be someone's second, or third anime. Since it was one of the first anime TV series made widely available on VHS in the '90s, a lot of us have fond memories of it that may not be necessarily earned; after all, when a lot of us first saw it, we had almost nothing to compare it to.

I was a typical anime fan in this regard, since my local Blockbuster had a few Ranma 1/2 tapes among its meager anime offerings somewhere around 1997. The store only had the first two volumes of the TV series and a handful of OVAs, but I remember watching them to death back in the day -- especially the TV series episodes. Needless to say, just hearing the original theme song is enough to bring on crashing tidal waves of nostalgia. Going back to watch it in 2014, for the first time in well over a decade, I had to wonder if the show would seem anywhere near as appealing to me now that I'm older and supposedly wiser.

The answer? Imagine a picture of a slightly disgruntled Panda holding up a wooden sign that says "Yup!" This was good stuff then, and it's good stuff now.

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Review: Nyaruko: Crawling With Love! Blu-ray Season 1 Set Premium Edition photo
Review: Nyaruko: Crawling With Love! Blu-ray Season 1 Set Premium Edition
by LB Bryant

Originally released in 2012, Nyaruko: Crawling With Love is a bizarre little romantic comedy which takes a typical harem anime set up and inserts tons of references to Lovecraft into the mix. The end result is a weird series that will make some people laugh and some people run for cover. 

The story is pretty simple; while out and about one day, the hero Mahiro is attacked by a monster only to be saved by a Nyarlathotep who goes by the name Nyaruko. After being saved, Mahiro learns that his life is in danger and Nyaruko moves in to protect him at all costs. Along the way he meets more aliens including a Cthugha named Kuko (who is in love with Nyaruko despite the fact that they're supposed to be enemies) and the wind deity Hastur. 

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Review: Demon Gaze photo
Review: Demon Gaze
by Dae Lee

There's something comforting and satisfying about Japanese turn-based RPGs, growing your party and exploring the unknown in the name of loot and power. Every progressive inch forward is one step closer to realizing your ultimate demolition team, and along the way are formidable opponents that continually challenge you to step up your game. I'm admittedly a little picky with my RPGs, but when I find one I enjoy, it's just like curling up with a good book -- and Demon Gaze is undoubtedly one of them.

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Review: Blast of Tempest S2 photo
Review: Blast of Tempest S2
by Karen Mead

There's something inscrutable about Blast of Tempest. Even now that I've had a few days to digest everything and figure out the answers to most of my lingering story questions, I still feel that there's something about the show that I don't quite get. And it's not that I don't "get" it in some artistic sense, where I don't understand the themes or whatnot; I mean, I'm not sure I completely understand what even happened. Or why it happened.

Or, as Shakespeare once wrote:

What seest thou else
In the dark backward and abysm of time?

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Review: Hal photo
Review: Hal
by Dae Lee

Wit Studio is probably best known for their work on the hit anime Attack on Titan, but in stark contrast with high octane action and drama we might associate with Wit, they released a quiet yet ambitious short film OVA, Hal. Being a relatively new studio with some real production chops, Hal feels like a showcase that displays what the studio is capable of, pulling out all the stops and putting their best foot forward.

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Review: Wagnaria!!2 Blu-ray Complete Box Set Premium Edition photo
Review: Wagnaria!!2 Blu-ray Complete Box Set Premium Edition
by LB Bryant

Before I was a professional writer, my primary source of income was working in the customer service industry. Every single day I would deal with customers face to face and while most of them were perfectly fine, there were some that were less than pleasant. The same could be said for my co-workers. While some of them were great, some of them could be classified as difficult or just plain strange. This is why Wagnaria has always spoken to me in a way that very few other anime ever have. While I might not have ever worked in a restaurant, I can still identify with the characters of the series who are dealing with their own issues, hassles and oddities. 

When the first season was released in 2010, I was absolutely floored by just how good it was. Always quirky and hilarious, I connected with it very quickly and when it disappeared I was very sad. Then the second season came along and it was like meeting an old flame and falling in love all over again. Once again though, the series eventually ended and my heart was broken.

Now, the series is back in a special premium NIS America release and is ready to be served up just like a tasty entree. Does it stand the test of time? Join me after the jump to find out!

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Review: Short Peace: Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day photo
Review: Short Peace: Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day
by Chris Walden

As far as bundles go, this is a bit of a strange one. Part-movie collection, part-video game, Short Peace: Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day is something that could only be pulled off on a home console. I suppose it's not surprising to see that Bandai Namco is the company publishing it, as it wasn't too long ago that they were offering a similar package with Tekken Hybrid, which included Tekken Tag Tournament HD and the Tekken: Blood Vengeance movie. 

Interestingly, the four films that the 'Short Peace' refers to were actually released in Japan in the middle of last year. These short films were animated by Sunrise, combined and released in theaters as a single showing. Crispy's Inc and Grasshopper Manufacture collaborated to create a game based on the Short Peace films, titled Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day, which was later released in Japan in a bundle with the four films. It only took three months to hit our shelves after the Japanese release, which is pretty impressive. 

But is this media mash-up worth a place in your game collection? 

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Review: Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic Volume 2 photo
Review: Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic Volume 2
by Jeff Chuang

The second volume of Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic Volume 2 completes what is better known as the first season of the Magi anime. These next 13 episodes wrap up the Balbadd arc and bring the story to the end of the second dungeon for Aladdin and Alibaba. In that sense, it completes a story. In another sense, given Magi's ongoing manga, the first season of the anime is only just the beginning.

Watching the series through the second time, it gave me time to focus on some of the little things that I either didn't notice or didn't pay much attention to the first time around. The visuals are better; the animation got a bump compared to the TV airing as, presumably, the production team went back and made minor fixes. The famed Morgiana dance scene looks better than ever on home video.

Unmistakably, the first and second volumes of Magi go hand in hand. And now that we have the whole season, we can talk about the bigger picture: the way Magi the anime is trying to tell its story.

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Review: Steins;Gate photo
Review: Steins;Gate
by Brittany Vincent

[As originally posted at Destructoid.]

Time travel is infinitely more interesting once you leave the trappings of the TARDIS or any one of those familiar (some would say hackneyed) science fiction mainstays behind. Steins;Gate, the visual novel that inspired a 24-episode anime series, film, and several other spinoffs, has woven a masterful tale that explores the trope in a manner not unlike the popular deconstruction of magical girl series, Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

We're all familiar with the philosophy that altering even the smallest detail from a past event could alter the future drastically, but how much damage could a text message do? Could it destroy the hopes and dreams of everyone you love? How far could you go to make things right again?

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Review: Smuggler photo
Review: Smuggler
by Dae Lee

When I saw the trailer, Smuggler gave me mixed impressions. As a live action adaptation of a manga by Shohei Manabe, I approached this title cautiously; I've seen more than enough manga and anime adaptations to know that many of them, even ones with lavish production, tend to rely too much on star power and lack the unique vision, writing, and flair to stand on their own. Luckily this wasn't the case with Smuggler, as it delivers a complete film that succeeds at capturing what makes the pulp action genre so fun.

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Review: Space Adventure Cobra Part One photo
Review: Space Adventure Cobra Part One
by Pedro Cortes

'80s anime had a fondness for cribbing from classic sci-fi. You can see the influences of authors like Issac Asimov and Philip K. Dick and movies like Terminator and Alien in multiple shows from the era. Hell, the influence of Blade Runner alone can be seen in tons of series and OVAs of the era. Taking these ideas and mixing them up in the unrestrained minds of creators from that time and you can get some great stuff.

Space Adventure Cobra is interesting in that it takes a shard of an idea from a classic and then spins it out into its own epic. The familiar idea ends up going to places that you might not expect. Besides, even if you do expect it, you'll probably find yourself having a pretty good time.

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Review: Strider photo
Review: Strider
by Elliot Gay

I have a confession to make.

I really love the original NES Strider. Yes, it's glitchy, unpolished, and generally a confusing oddity. I understand all of that. But for every strange design decision that didn't work, there are flashes of greatness. The almost-Metroid style sense of adventure, the power-ups, the nonsensical story; I find the original Strider to be a fascinating experiment and product of its time.

One can imagine then that the announcement of a new exploration-focused Strider game got me more than a bit excited. I had zero confidence in Double Helix Games to create a good follow-up to the long dormant series, but the participation of Capcom's Osaka Studio kept me hopeful.

While Strider 2014 isn't quite the legendary game that some of its predecessors were, I think Double Helix is off to a good start.

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Review: Deadman Wonderland Vol. 1 photo
Review: Deadman Wonderland Vol. 1
by Brittany Vincent

When the anime adaptation of Deadman Wonderland began airing on Toonami, I was intrigued -- not because I thought I'd ever be able to catch it when it came on, or that I'd remember to hit the record button on my DVR, but because I thought it might be genuinely grotesque. When I finally had the chance to catch it on Blu-ray for Japanator, I was thrilled. The series delivered, mostly -- except for the part where it came to a screeching halt in what felt like the first half of a series with no second half in sight. Just as the events of the series came to a head, it was over as quickly as it had begun. What next? I did what every Berserk fan knows to do: I started reading the manga.

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Review: K DVD/Blu-ray Complete Series photo
Review: K DVD/Blu-ray Complete Series
by LB Bryant

Sometimes you come across a series that looks amazing and impresses you with its style from the first moments. Those series are few and far between but when you find them, they tend to stick with you. Sometimes though, you get into the middle of one of these shows and find that they are all flash with no meat; style over substance, as it were. Sadly, K is one of those series. 

While high-school student Shiro is running an errand for his classmates one day, he's forced to go on the run when multiple people show up on the scene intent on taking his life. Apparently there's a video of him out there murdering a "king" in cold blood. Shiro's sure that he didn't do it and convinces one of the people after his life, Kuroh, to spare him long enough to prove his innocence.

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Review: The Witch and the Hundred Knight photo
Review: The Witch and the Hundred Knight
by Chris Walden

Diablo 3 was disappointing. That might be an odd way to start a review on a game from Nippon Ichi Software, but while I and many others await the Reaper of Souls expansion to complete the many Diablo 3 renovations, the urge to dive into a good dungeon crawler is only rising. I had no idea what The Witch and the Hundred Knight was a week ago, but after hearing that it might just satiate my hunger for hoarding loot, I had to get in on that.

What awaited was an interesting take on a tried and tested genre, with many new mechanics that seek to innovate. However, for every positive this game has on offer, there's an unfortunate negative. 

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Review: Tiger & Bunny: The Rising photo
Review: Tiger & Bunny: The Rising
by Pedro Cortes

Tiger & Bunny turned out to be a surprise hit for Sunrise. It had well-animated action scenes, an interesting story across both seasons and a set of main characters that had some great arcs. Not only that, but the show ended up being a hit across genders lines. In general, guys loved the super hero action and ladies loved the rather attractive heroes -- I mean, the Kotetsu T. Kaburagi/Barnaby Brooks Jr. slash paring is one of the most popular ones I've seen.[Editor's Note: which certainly is not to say that plenty of ladies didn't also enjoy this show for the action as well!] It’s the kind of cross-over hit that only happens once every couple of years.

This being a Sunrise property, there was bound to be some sort of compilation film. The first movie, titled Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning, spent most of its time re-telling the opening few episodes of the show, ending with a new adventure involving a thief that can change his location at will. A year and a half later, we finally get the second film, Tiger & Bunny: The Rising. Instead of a ton of recaps, we get an entirely new film with a new hero and a new antagonist.

How do these new elements fit into the established world?

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Review: Blessing of the Campanella photo
Review: Blessing of the Campanella
by LB Bryant

In 2010, Funimation simulcasted a fantasy series called Blessing of the Campanella and then, once concluded, it quietly went away. For months no one brought it up again until 2013 when Right Stuf revealed at a summer convention that they had licensed the series and planned on releasing it. Fast forward a few months and now you can find the series on store shelves, but is it worth the trip to pick it up? 

Taking place in the city of Ert'Aria, the story follows an adventuring clan named Oasis who are much beloved by the populace and take on odd jobs or quests for people. One night, the clan is watching a meteor shower when one particular burst of energy hits a nearby tower. When one of the members, Leicester, investigates he finds a young girl named Minette who declares him to be her father. 

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Review: Insufficient Direction photo
Review: Insufficient Direction
by Brad Rice

Being an otaku isn't easy. But when you've fallen in love with someone who's king of the otaku? Well, that means you've got a long way to go to up your nerd game.

That's the struggle Rompers faces in Moyoco Anno's autobiographical manga, detailing the adventures she has in living with and marrying Hideaki Anno -- one of Japan's biggest otaku. They struggle with everything from the music in the car to decorating their house. Will Rompers survive the struggles of being a true otaku?

If you're a fan of any of Moyoco Anno's other works (Sakuran, Hataraki Man, Sugar Sugar Rune), then Insufficient Direction will provide a peek behind the curtain and see what her private life is like.

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Review: Maria Holic photo
Review: Maria Holic
by LB Bryant

Released by Sentai Filmworks, Maria Holic is a Shaft series from way back in 2008. The series takes place at the all girls Ame no Kisaki academy where Kanoko has just transferred in hopes of finding her one true love. Yes, she is a lesbian. A very perverted one at that, but we'll get to that later. 

Upon entering the school grounds, Kanako meets a variety of other students including a beautiful new first-year named Maria. At first the two get along great and Kanako believes that she may have found her true love right away... until she finds out Maria's big secret: she is actually a guy crossdressing as a female and Maria will do anything to make sure that this secret doesn't get out, including moving into the same dorm room as Kanako to keep a close eye on her.

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A Look @: Oh My Goddess!, Volume 45 photo
A Look @: Oh My Goddess!, Volume 45
by Karen Mead

As long as Kosuke Fujishima's most celebrated manga has been running, it wasn't actually around during Benjamin Franklin's time. We can discern this because if it had been, his famous quotation would have stated that the only certainties in life were "death, taxes and Oh My Goddess!" That's how inevitable each new volume feels.

The series has been slogging along for something like 25 years, and though there have been some plot twists here and there, the fundamentals seem set in stone: Keichi and Belldandy love each other, but Bell's two meddling sisters make trouble for them. Keichi and Belldandy love each other, but their relationship will never advance beyond the hand-holding, kindergarten level for some reason; presumably because Fujishima is a pretty classy fellow and has no interest in sullying his premiere series with dirty Goddess/human sex. Keichi and Belldandy love each other, but the plot will never really progress, and so on and so forth.

Or at least, that's what we thought. The last few volumes of OMG! have turned what we thought we knew about this series on its head, and I'm honestly not sure how I feel about it yet.

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Review: Kamisama Kiss photo
Review: Kamisama Kiss
by Karen Mead

When I dream of becoming God, these fantasies usually don't involve a white-haired pretty boy with fox ears who follows me around and does my bidding; clearly, I've been doing it wrong. Now that Kamisama Kiss has taught me the error of my ways, my visions of deity will probably contain more sexy fox men and less sending other drivers to burn in eternal hellfire when they forget to use their blinkers. It's probably healthier this way.

Have your own delusions of Godhood been too full of wrath and too light on supernatural boyfriends lately? Then you too could probably use some Kamisama Kiss in your life.

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