Back again with another recommendation.

Something weird is happening in the bookshops of America these days. The biggest growth in book-reading amongst the young and teenage market ( and boys especially) is not Mr.Potter and his cohorts but, believe it or not, Manga.

Nobody can understand how this came about, but it seems that good marketing and variation of titles by publishers like Tokyopop or Viz. Good promotion and stocking by bookshops like Borders, plus the fact that the most popular titles come out every month and have a definite ending have all helped. People talk about the story and art in groups, have no problem with the view that comics are ” just for kids” and bring more readers into the fold just by their sheer enthusiasm.

A lot different from the attitude of bookshops in this country. Where graphics are relegated to horrible spinner racks Shame on you, or ignored totally as most of the staff and the GM can’t understand them ( a view related to me when I went for a job at the local Ottokars. I knew the moment I mentioned that I read them that I wouldn’t get the job. The look on the personnel managers and GM’s faces).

Anyway. After all this you’ve guessed that this weeks book is a manga and its Love Hina vol 11 by Ken Akamatsu, published by Tokyopop.

The story is now coming to its end ( its 14 volumes long) but don’t let that put you off trying to find the rest. Its always in print and fairly cheap too ( about £7.50).
The simple story of a lad and the promise he made when a kid doesn’t even begin to describe the sheer comic madness that overtakes him when, after failing to get into TU for the third time, he becomes caretaker at Hina Lodge for girls. Trying to do his job as well as he can when the rest of the girls think he’s nothing but a pervert, studying for his re-exams, being dragged off on madcap schemes and wondering if the girl he loves is the one he made the promise to all those years ago is just a small fraction of what happens to him. Some of the story does seem a little made-up, on the spur of the moment, and the introduction of a new character so late in the series, does seem odd. But it only adds to the utter insanity and frantic quality of the book.

Now, it has to be said that although the Japanese do love stories (and schoolyard romances) brilliantly they are the most kinkiest nation on Earth. This means that Love Hina does have lots of “fan service”. A polite way of saying that all the girls are incredibly cute, show their underwear a lot, wear schoolgirl uniforms and swimsuits, lose said items in a series of zany and crazy mishaps, bathe naked in hot springs, think nothing of gender-bending ( the latest volume even surprised me when one of the girls, having to impersonate the male lead, goes all the way and adds a particular piece of equipment), and beat the poor lad into the ground.

Ok, as someone who’s read a lot of manga, it doesn’t faze me anymore (well,not all the time). But for someone who’s new to the genre, its going to come as quite a surprise to see what writers and artists get away with. Especially with the ages of some of the girls.

The translation is well done and conveys the feelings of the characters nicely. The continuing policy of printing the books so they have to be read in the Japanese style also means that there is very little jar or break in the sound effects and the whole tale comes highly praised.

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