The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 11, 2008

Book review: Library offers several manga titles

Manga, simply described, are graphic novels that originated in Japan and are translated into English.

They are typically published in the Japanese style and are read from right to left, making the books look backward to our Western eyes. An extremely popular form of graphic novel, manga is written for all ages from young children to adults, and is voraciously read by many.

The Joplin Public Library carries several manga titles, including the two reviewed below, and has created a manga and anime club for teens (grades 6-12) that will begin meeting at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, in the library’s large meeting room. Teens interested in participating in the club should come to the Teen Department and fill out the club application.

‘Death Note’

Story by Tsugumi Ohba, art by Takeshi Obata

Light Yagami is a typical, smart 17-year-old — he’s bored. Really, really bored.

One afternoon, Light finds a notebook lying innocently on the ground. But it isn’t just any notebook. It’s the Death Note and holds the power of life and death within its pages. As Light learns from the instructions written inside, once someone’s name is written in the Death Note, that person will die.

The Death Note belonged to a Shinigami (death god or, as we call them, grim reaper) named Ryuk, who, like Light, is extremely bored. He’s tired of the monotony of writing human names in the Death Note, so he “accidentally” drops his notebook in the human world to see what happens when a human gets to power to kill anonymously.

Once he discovers that the Death Note actually has power, Light decides to rid the world of evil and writes down the names of people who have committed heinous crimes. Unfortunately, the criminals’ deaths do not go unnoticed and the governments of the world vow to stop the killer, or “Kira” as he is nicknamed. To accomplish this, they have hired the mysterious “L,” who is said to be able to solve any mystery and capture any criminal.

Now Light and L are locked in a battle of wits that will end in one of their deaths. Who will outsmart the other? How many names will be written in the Death Note before the battle is won?

This manga is appropriate for teens (especially older teens) and adults.

‘Fruits Basket’

Story and art by Natsuki Takaya

Tohru Honda has not had the easiest of years or the best of luck lately. Recently orphaned, Tohru is forced to live in a tent in a forest that is, unknown to her, owned by the prominent Sohma family.

Yuki Sohma, the adored “prince” of Tohru’s high school, lives in the house near Tohru’s tent with his older cousin, Shigure. Yuki and Shigure are hopeless bachelors and are in desperate need of someone to take care of them. Luckily for them (and unluckily for Tohru) a mudslide obliterates Tohru’s tent and the Sohmas invite her to live with them in exchange for housekeeping duties.

When Yuki and Shigure’s cousin, Kyo, burst through the roof of the Sohma house and attacks Yuki, Tohru tries to protect Yuki by tackling Kyo. One minute she has her arms around a boy and the next minute she’s holding a cat. As Tohru races to take the cat-that-used-to-be-Kyo to the hospital, a falling piece of lumber smacks her in the head. As she falls, she tries to catch herself by holding onto Yuki and Shigure, who turn into a rat and a dog, respectively.

Now, Tohru must be told of the Sohma family curse — they are possessed by one of the 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac, plus the cat of legend, and when embraced by someone of the opposite sex, they transform into those animals — and she must promise never to reveal the curse to anyone. As the series continues, Tohru meets more of the cursed family members and discovers deep Sohma family secrets all while developing strong relationships with (and perhaps romantic feelings for) both Yuki and Kyo.

Each volume introduces delightful characters and hilarious chaos while fueling the question of which Sohma cousin Tohru will end up with.

This manga series is appropriate for teens and adults.

Cari Boatright is the teen librarian at Joplin Public Library.