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Summer Reading Challenge: Steel Wings in Phoenix Chronicles with NecroOphealia Ghost Stories

2007 was a good year for OEL manga.  Tokyopop was still going strong with their Rising Stars of Manga.  Seven Seas Entertainment had released their first OEL titles.  And the company I’m going to look at, Demented Dragon, published their first 4 titles which I will be reviewing.  Specializing in RPGs (Role Playing Games) and graphic novels for young adults, this Canadian publisher put together an interesting set of titles that ranged from sci-fi, fantasy, horror and the unusual.

These titles were originally solicited in Previews, which is where I found out about them.  I was initially attracted by The Phoenix Chronicles, but was glad to receive the first volumes from their initial print run.  I will review these in the order I read them, which is, coincidentally the order in which I would rate them.

A Steel Wing Shattered Volume 1
By Chris Hazelton
Age Rating: 16+
Demented Dragon, 2007 ISBN: 978-0-9788804-4-6
128 pgs, $12.95

Leona is a girl with no memory of her past.  She wakes up in her room to her brother urging to get ready for their first day at a new school.  A diary beside her tells Leona everything she needs to know to get through the day.  She befriends Kyoko, a girl in her class, who then convinces Leona to see a psychic about her lost memory.  Instead of finding answers, Leona and Kyoko become mixed up in a search for a sword and a three hundred year old battle.

In general, I liked this title.  The story has potential and I was interested in seeing where it went next, but unfortunately, this one plus is heavily outweighed by many minuses.  First, and foremost is the art.  It is very flat and really turned me off from the story a lot.  It looks very rudimentary and not really publishing quality.  There are no chapter breaks either.  It just as just one long chapter, which might be fine in webcomics, but not in print.  It rushes the pace and gives no sense of time.  Content wise, here is a bit of bloodshed, but it’s the fanservice that is really distracting and does nothing for the story.  Overall, I can’t recommend this title.  It needs both artist and editorial work.

The Phoenix Chronicles "Awakenings" Volume 1
By Kenyth Mogan; Illustrated by Melissa Hudson & Sheree Chuang
Age Rating: 15+
Demented Dragon, 2007 ISBN: 978-0-9788804-1-5
128 pgs, $12.95

Anastasya is a normal high school girl who works in a hospital, has a boyfriend, and loves to dance.  One night, an old woman starts appearing in her dreams, telling her she is from another world, possesses strange powers and is needed to fight the evil that has taken over that world.  Anastasya must now learn to cope with her regular, every day life and the strange changes that have resulted from these dreams, including the evil coming for her.

The title of this series is what caught my attention.  I love phoenixes, so I was instantly interested in this series.  For the most part, I enjoyed this first volume.  The plot is well written, the characters are interesting, and the art is decent.  The biggest problems this volume suffers from is lack of chapters and bad word balloon placement.  Like the last title I read, this title has no chapters to break up the book, and there is no sense of time.  Weeks have to pass for events to happen in this book, but there no feeling of that time passage.  The transitions from one scene to another is also very abrupt, leaving the reader with little to no time to adjust to the new characters and setting. 

The most difficult thing of about reading this volume is the bad placement of the word balloons.  The book reads left to right (western style), but many of the balloon must be read right to left (eastern style) to keep the flow of the story.  It’s very disorienting.  Word balloons are also often combined into one even though through the flow of the conversation they should be separated so the reader knows in what order they should be read in.  Content wise, this title features some nudity and sexual situations.  Also, some of the characters are described as being homosexual.  This information as no real bearing on the story, and makes sense in the context of the scenes. 

I really wanted to like this title, and in the end I did enjoy it some.  It has the makings of a good fantasy story, but the problems with reading direction and word balloon placement keep me from really recommending it. 

By Yoko Molotov
Age Rating: 13+
Demented Dragon, 2006 ISBN: 978-0-9788804-0-8

Ophealia Stiffburough is spoiled rich girl who lives in the town of Moroseville.  She has every a girl could want, expect friends.  One day, an escaped army experiment turned zombie wanders into her backyard.  She befriends the zombie she names Zoom and he becomes her constant companion to school and on their many adventures.

NecrOphealia is a comedy title.  It’s created by Yoko Molotov, who was a runner up in Tokyopop’s Rising Stars of Manga, being recognized for a short story version of this title.  This title reads right to left (eastern style), and is a series of short stories broken up into chapters.  This was a much easier title to read compared to the first two, but I didn’t enjoy the story as much as the others.  The idea is fairly original, but the humor was just okay.  The stories range from Ophealia and Zoom staying in a "haunted" house, how the pair met, and meeting a new transfer student.  The art is well done, but it’s not a style that I like.  Content wise, there’s nothing really objectionable in it, unless you don’t like zombies or cats being turned into the undead.  With the popularity of zombies right now, teens may enjoy this title.

Lafcadio Hearn’s Japanese Ghost Stories
By Sean Michael Wilson; Illustrated by Haruka Miyabi
Age Rating: 15+
Demented Dragon, 2006 ISBN: 978-0-9788804-3-9
128 pgs, $12.95

Lafcadio Hearn was a journalist that lived in Japan during the Meiji period. He collected many of the folktales and ghost stories from the people at the time and wrote them down in several books, the most well know of which is Kwaidan.  This title tells the live story of Hearn as well as illustrating many of the stories from his many books.

Of all four of these titles, this one is the best written and best drawn.  It was written as a collaboration between British writer Sean Michael Wilson and Japanese illustrator Haruka Miyabi and has been published in both English and Japanese.  The stories alternate between telling a ghost story and telling a section of Hearn’s life.  It covers from his youth to his death, while the ghost stories are some of the best known in Japan.  This title is both entertaining and educational.  Hearn was a fascinating man with a passion for the Japanese people and their culture.  He could almost be considered the Andrew Lang of Japanese folklore. It could be a great stepping stone for students interested in Japanese culture, mythology and/or anthropology.  I would highly recommend this title, but as luck would have it, it’s the only title of these four to be out of print.

Lori Henderson About Lori Henderson

Lori Henderson is a mother of two teenage daughters and an avid reader. She blogs about manga at her personal blog Manga Xanadu as well as contributing and editing for Manga Village. She blogs about all things fandom (mainly Doctor Who) at her other personal blog Fangirl Xanadu. She's been at it so for over 5 years now and counting!

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