Ken Akamatsu, artist and writer
Anticipation/Expectation Level: None. Neutral.
My Reality: Tōta’s dream is to make it to the city and climb the giant tower to space and do something great (he’s not sure what yet). All he has to do is defeat his ultra powerful teacher/guardian Yukihime. She insists that it be done through fighting skills, but when Tōta and his friends try some magic, things quickly go wrong and Tōta ends up with the immortality of a vampire – a gift from Yukihime. Together they travel back to Tokyo through the semi-deserted countryside,Tōta’s naivete helping them pick up friends and avoid bounty hunters – or the former from the latter, in androgynous young Kurōmaru’s case, looking to attack Yukihime, to seek Tōtas fortune. Whatever it is.
UQ Holder ends up being the name of the group of powerful immortals of which Yukihime is the head. It’s not just a vampire book – there are all kinds of immortals with different vulnerabilities and strengths, which was cool. The group exists to protect a group of yokai (Japanese demons/monsters). As a manga, it has all the usual hallmarks of a shonen series – the enthusiastic young (but very talented) seeker, the journey, the mentor and sidekick(s), the tests/fights. Up to book 2, it’s not so clear what the evil organization is, although Tōta does get beat up a lot. Because I don’t read a lot of shonen, I am not tired of these tropes, but I also can’t judge if this is a fun iteration of the genre or not. I haven’t read the precursor to which this series has a small connection, Negima. And I read it on a computer, which means it felt tiresome just because I was reading it on a computer.
Will teens like it?: What I do know is that teens love this kind of book, and they’ll probably like this.
Is it “great” for teens?: Maybe?
Inio Asano, writer and artist
Anticipation/Expectation Level: I ended up buying this because I was sick of waiting and really liked Solanin, and had read some very good reviews.
My Reality: The world of Nijigahara Holograph is mindbending and sad. Most of the characters, whether at age 10 or 20 are struggling through depression and other messed up stuff – they have been victims of and perpetrators of bullying and abuse. A lot of the worst things happen around the Nijigahara embankment, which leads to a field next to a stream coming out of a tunnel. Once a girl insisted a monster lived in the tunnel that would end the world. Her classmates pushed her into a well.
The story flashes back and forth in time, and possibly characters come back and forth in time within the story. I’m not sure. I just finished reading it and I feel like I have to read it again to solidify it. It’s a depressing vision, told beautifully. Asano’s art is much more realistic than most manga you will find published in America, the kind of characters that are easy to extrapolate to their real life versions. Which makes the surreal, disgusting, violent, and sad parts of the story that much more affecting.
Will teens like it?: I think some teens would like this type of story a lot.
Is it “great” for teens?: While I would recommend this to some teens who are into it, and think that teens who seek out complex stories should find it, I do think it is primarily a story written for adults, with adult themes. So after a couple reads I can tell you if I think it’s great, but right now I can say that I don’t think it’s for teens, even if teens will find it and like it (and I’m okay with that).
Daisuke Ashihara, writer and artist
I can’t find these anywhere, legally. I have no interest in reading illegal copies, especially because they will be on a computer.
I really like the covers, though. Nice contrasting colors and angled edges!
Here’s the description from VIZ:
“Earth is under constant threat from Neighbors, invincible monsters from another dimension that destroy our way of life. At least we have the elite warriors of Border, who co-opt alien technology to fight back!
Our hero Osamu Mikumo may not be the best agent, but he’ll do whatever it takes to defend life on Earth as we know it.
When Osamu meets a feisty humanoid Neighbor named Yuma, everything that he thinks is right is turned on its head. Can the two natural enemies ever become friends?”