Makoto Tateno is best known in the United States as a creator of yaoi, or boys love, manga for women, but she’s also been a shojo manga creator for over 20 years. Recently, Digital Manga Publishing has released two of her shojo titles for teens, so whether teen readers are fantasy/adventure fans (Angelic Runes), or if they are looking for light comedy (Happy Boys), they won’t have to look very far for a fun read.
Angelic Runes, vol. 1
Age Rating: YA/16+
Digital Manga Publishing, July 2009, ISBN 978-1-56970-122-5
200 pages, $12.95
Sowil is a wanderer. Compelled to try to discover the mysteries of his birth, he uses his rune magic to help him along his way. When he rescues two orphan children from the villagers trying to kill them, he finds help from an unexpected source. The twins have mysterious powers of their own: Allu channels demons and Eru can talk to angels. Will their abilities help Sowil learn more about his own and about his family or are powerful forces using Sowil and the twins for their own purposes?
Tateno adds a lot of elements to this first volume, but it’s nothing that a fantasy reader won’t love. In addition to Sowil and the twins, there are a host of other magical beings who interact with our hero and with the villagers he encounters along the way. Fantasy readers will enjoy spotting the many monsters, demons, and angels that Tateno references. She’s obviously done her research. Her characters are not lost in the mix, however. Sowil is a charming young man–happy, smart, and fair-minded. In several instances his sense of justice goes even further than his magical powers when it comes to saving the day. The twins are still blanks, but the angels and demons that they channel are interesting enough to make up for it. At the end of this first volume, Tateno introduces both Sowil’s mentor and a character who will likely be the main villain of the series, leaving readers eager for the next adventure.
Happy Boys, vol. 1
Age Rating: YA/16+
Digital Manga Publishing, September 2009, ISBN 978-1-56970-085-3
200 pages, $12.95
Lady Braganza is a butler cafe. It offers tea, cakes, and, best of all, a host of attractive young men to wait on "madam" and "sir" and see to their every need. Behind the scenes, though, things aren’t quite so smooth. When they aren’t at work, Shiva, Renjo, Ivory, Silk, and Eve are ordinary young men who must learn to get along as they try to achieve their dreams and make Lady Braganza a warm, welcoming place.
Happy Boys is not a title for readers with an aversion to cutesy sweetness. The basic plot is pretty much just hot guys serving cake and getting into silly arguments. It’s enjoyable, but not all that memorable. This could be because Happy Boys was written to go along with a TV show of the same name that aired on TV Tokyo in 2007. But, other than the blatantly gay chef, there isn’t anything offensive in the first volume and Happy Boy‘s herd of cute butlers is a nice contrast to the usual manga harem full of cute girls.
Tateno’s art is distinctive. Her men and women have the large, luminous eyes expected in manga, but they often have a downward slant to them, giving them a slight air of melancholy. Characters’ faces are long and lean, with sharp chins and small mouths. As a yaoi and shojo creator, Tateno is used to drawing beautiful men, and these two series are no exception. Her men pose attractively, sure to win the hearts of readers everywhere. Whether your library needs more fantasy or if you are looking to add some humor to your manga collection, these two series are worth considering.
This review is based on complimentary copies supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Digital Manga Publishing.