Click 3 by Youngran Lee: B-

From the back cover:
Joonha, the transgender headcase, and Taehyun, the hotshot rich kid, are actually becoming buddies—so much so that they even team up to take down a card shark at the casino Taehyun’s family runs. Is the friendship about to turn into something… more?

Meanwhile, figures from Joonha’s past keep popping up—and stirring up real trouble. His old friend Jinhoo, now a star piano player, is back in Seoul and not going anywhere. And former nice girl Heewon: is she really as nasty as she acts, or is it all a front? Could she be the reason why brainy Jihan suddenly isn’t wearing his glasses anymore?

I’m not sure what it is about Click that makes it so addictive. I think perhaps the emphasis on character relationships over anything else is partly responsible, because the plot itself is pretty much just day-to-day things, even though what passes for day-to-day in Taehyun’s life is his stepfather accusing him of being gay, plotting business takeovers, winning at high stakes poker games, et cetera.

Also, now that the mechanics of Joonha’s gender change are out of the way, the uncertainty of the other characters regarding her true gender is pretty interesting. Taehyun’s definitely attracted to her, but unable to really convince himself she’s a girl. Heewon, despite Joonha telling her outright that she’s a girl (though she made up a story about having been a girl all along) is in denial and insists to her friend that Joonha’s a guy. And Jinhoo is completely clueless, though the volume ends with a cliffhanger in which he seems poised to find out (or to at least spot Joonha in a girl’s uniform).

I also love the wordless reunion between Jinhoo and Joonha and the fact that when Joonha tells Taehyun she’s starting to like him, she doesn’t mean romantically (at least, I don’t think so), but rather means that she wants to be like him, a cool badass kind of guy. I can almost like Joonha now, but her nasty personality emerges once again when confronted with Jinhoo’s girlfriend. I also can’t stand Heewon, with her profanity, violence, and propensity for ordering people around like they’re her servants.

I think of a B- as meaning, “I enjoy this despite its flaws,” which fits Click pretty well.

Click 2 by Youngran Lee: B-

From the back cover:
Poor Joonha has moved to the big city and is now living incognito, as a girl, at a new school. But that doesn’t mean his (her?) troubles are over. First, Taehyun, the obnoxious class playboy, coerces Joonha into a “friendship” that royally ticks off Yoomi, Taehyun’s ex. That’s before the reappearance of Heewon, the lovesick stunner who’s followed Joonha all the way from their old school—and whose feelings apparently stay the same whether Joonha is a boy or a girl!

I liked this one much more than the first volume, to the point where I’m tempted to give it a B. There’s just too much lingering sexism (albeit an incredibly diluted amount compared to volume one) for me to justify doing so. There does look to be some progress on this front, though. First, Joonha, being severely humbled, is not actively being arrogant and cruel to girls. She does still, however, have this notion that being a girl means that there’s no reason to do well in school anymore or to have ambitions of any kind, so she’s been slacking off in a major way. When her new friend, Taehyun, gets wind of this attitude his response is one of disbelief at this antiquated notion. He encourages Joonha to live life to its fullest, whatever her gender may happen to be, and she ends up turning out a bravura performance on her next round of class exams and makes plans to join Taehyun as his business partner.

There’s all sorts of other drama going on, too, including the girl Joonha spurned in junior high emerging on the scene and beating up the leader of Joonha’s new gang of admirers, Taehyun’s serious-minded lackey falling in love/obsession with her, an angsty family background for Taehyun, and the return of Joonha’s childhood friend Jinhoo (now a famous concert pianist) after a concert tour.

Despite the persistent problem of no truly likable characters, but I can’t deny that it’s getting pretty addictive at this point. The volume serves up a couple of nice cliffhangers in the final chapter, too.

Click 1 by Youngran Lee: C+

From the back cover:
Joonha is a normal, healthy boy of sixteen who has cruised through life without too many problems. Imagine his surprise when a recent trip to the bathroom suddenly reveals that he’s not normal at all! With a shriek of “Oh, my God!!!,” he finds himself missing, well, something he never thought he could live without.

As it turns out, his family is abnormal in the weirdest possible way. After puberty, their chromosomes undergo some kind of mutation, which converts their bodies into the opposite sex!

There are a few things that bothered me quite a lot about Click, even while I think it’s fundamentally fairly interesting and I plan to keep reading.

1. Before spontaneously turning into a girl, Joonha is the most thoroughly infuriating chauvinist pig imaginable. He treats girls like his playthings in an attempt to teach them the feminine virtues of obedience. When the girl he likes confesses to him, he blows her off, saying that it’s her duty to “wait gracefully until you are chosen.”

2. When Joonha begins to live as a girl, he’s more tolerable, but I can’t help but think that this is because he suffered such a tremendous blow to his pride. The remorse he shows for his past actions is more along the lines of, “I should have kissed her” rather than “I shouldn’t have treated her that way.” It’s still ultimately about what’s in it for him.

3. None of the other characters are really all that likable, either. Joonha’s friend from childhood, Jinhoo, comes closest. The fact that he merely expresses mild disapproval of Joonha’s treatment of girls, however, speaks volumes.

4. Joonha’s parents are annoyingly chipper and dim. When he asks why they didn’t tell him about the family’s tendency to change genders, they claim they forgot about it. Yes, I know, I always take stories with wacky premises too seriously, but this is just too ridiculous to be suffered quietly.

There are a few good moments scattered throughout, though. My favorite is the scene in which Jinwoo and Heewon (the girl who confessed her feelings to Joonha) share their hurt feelings about Joonha’s sudden disappearing act. The art is also quite nice. It’s interesting to note, too, that once Joonha begins living as a girl, he doesn’t embody the same ideals of feminine behavior that he once held.

At this point, it’s hard to care about the story or any of the characters, but I plan to give it a couple more volumes at least to see if it gets any better.

Ouran High School Host Club 11 by Bisco Hatori: B+

Eleven volumes in, things are still pretty much where they started with this series. Haruhi is still concealing her gender and participating in the Host Club, Tamaki is still ignorant of his feelings for her, and characters like Mori and Hunny haven’t changed a bit. This volume finds the gang competing in a sports festival that Tamaki has orchestrated in an attempt to spur Kyoya to compete passionately over something that yields him no personal benefit.

Ouran High School Host Club walks a fine line between comedy and plot progression and, honestly, dwells on the humorous side of the divide most of the time. When it does visit the other side, however, the results can be surprisingly gratifying. While many of the characters have been stuck in the same places for a while, the same cannot be said of the Hitachin brothers. Originally a pair of practically interchangeable pranksters, they have matured significantly and are now distinct individuals. Kaoru has been aware for some time that both he and his brother have feelings for Haruhi, and when Hikaru finally catches on, it makes for some great scenes between them.

The comedy is sometimes funny and sometimes not, but the more serious elements are always a hit with me. It’s for moments like that that I continue to read this series.

Review originally published at Manga Recon.

Basara 27 by Yumi Tamura: B+

From the back cover:
In this special collection of side stories, join Sarasa and Shuri after the war, as they rebuild Japan and travel the world together. In the distant Huang Empire, Sarasa is infected with a fatal disease—but will Shuri betray the Huang Emperor to save her? And when the new Japanese government is beset with turmoil, it’s up to two children to convince a reclusive hermit named Hayato to lead his country.

Finally, Yumi Tamura offers a glimpse of life before the apocalypse… before the ruined world Sarasa knows… before the beginning of Basara!

What I like about how Tamura envisioned these appendices is that they feel like natural extentions of the main story. She didn’t have to manufacture some conflict for Shuri and Sarasa that was insulting to them, like inserting some new vixen who’s a threat to their relationship. Instead, it’s a story about guilt and atonement, adjusting to the needs of another person, and making amends by doing something with one’s life.

The tale with Hayato also isn’t useless fluff, since he’s dealing with anger towards Tatara who seemingly deserted them all and whose absence led to the creation of a government that didn’t fit the revolutionaries’ ideals. Shuri and Sarasa’s kids make an appearance, and they’re cute enough, but the best is Motomichi, all growed up and looking incredibly like his dad. I especially like the panels where Hayato looks into the young man’s eyes and thinks “I killed your father.”

The rest of the stories are really, really short and don’t contribute a great deal to my enjoyment of the book either way. The last one, though brief, does end on a good note for the series, however.

Now Basara is really over. Sniff.

Hana-Kimi 23 by Hisaya Nakajo: C

From the back cover:
Mizuki’s secret is exposed… and her days at Osaka High School are numbered. Can she keep the friends she made as a boy… and does she have a future with Sano after graduation? The flowers of youth are scattered to the winds in the bittersweet final volume of Hana-Kimi!

It’s… over! Thank God.

Nakajo seemed to really be phoning it in for these final few chapters. The big event that I was anticipating—Nakatsu finding out Mizuki’s secret—was handled poorly in two skimpy chapters (a mere 14 pages each). I was annoyed that no one else was annoyed. Their friend had essentially been duping them for two years, and not a single person called her out on it. Everyone was supportive of Mizuki’s every decision.

I did like that Mizuki withdrew from the school. After the rampant acceptance, I was anticipating an ending wherein the school authorities were also totally fine with it. The ensuing farewell scene was pretty dumb, though, and the epilogue bland.

The overall feel of this volume was one of weariness. These should’ve been the climactic chapters that the series was building to all this time, but instead they were listless. I mean, what kind of drama is it when a chapter ends on the riveting decision to take some candid photographs? Although there were moments that I enjoyed in Hana-Kimi, its failure to deliver in crucial areas virtually ensures that I’ll never reread it.

Ouran High School Host Club 10 by Bisco Hatori: B+

From the back cover:
Ever since the day he helped her up from a nasty tumble, Black Magic Club member Reiko Kanazuki has been obsessed with Hunny. She is devoting all her knowledge of the dark arts to curse him and steal his soul. Will the sweetest member of the Host Club fall victim to her spells?

This series is starting to remind me of Hana-Kimi, which isn’t a compliment. While I enjoy some recurring characters, especially Kasanoda, I don’t particularly like it when long-forgotten characters reemerge out of the woodwork, like a coworker of Haruhi’s dad and a fruit-obsessed rival of Kyoya’s did in this volume.

A new character is also introduced. Mei is the rebellious daughter of the aforementioned coworker, and she’s not very interesting in and of herself. She does work well as a catalyst, however. When she decides to romantically pursue Tamaki, it prompts a tiny bit of progress from Tamaki and Haruhi regarding their feelings, which she picks up on. When she relates this to Kaoru, it coaxes out a bit more development. So, I suppose she’s useful in that respect.

One thing I wish is that the entire Host Club didn’t always have to show up to everything. It turns out that Tamaki was trying to help Mei and her father reconcile, and Haruhi decided to help him. It could’ve been so great if these two had just been doing it on their own. But no, the whole gang has to turn up and tip the scales in favor of hilarity.

There’s one completely random thing I do like, though. Towards the end of the volume, Mori is seen a few times with a baby chick in tow. Puzzled, I had to flip through the previous chapter until I finally spotted the panel where, quite unobtrusively in the background, Mori is seen patronizing a baby chick stall at a summer festival the gang attends. I like silly little things like that.

Ouran High School Host Club 9 by Bisco Hatori: B

From the back cover:
In middle school, Tamaki Suoh must entice the coldhearted twins, Hikaru and Kaoru Hitachiin, to join his newly created Host Club. But in order to get them to accept his proposal, he must first best them at their own game.

I didn’t find much to get excited about in this volume. Tamaki’s cuteness was its saving grace, enlivening an otherwise ho-hum chapter about the twins’ induction into the host club and making tolerable a story about an insufferable princess who visited the school and issued many orders. In the course of this latter story, at least, Tamaki finally caught a glimmer of his feelings for Haruhi, and they shared a sweet moment together.

I probably liked the last Host Club chapter in the volume the best simply for its final few pages. They were incredibly adorable, and it’s for moments like this that I read the series. I just wish there were more of them.

Another of the “Love Egoist” short stories was also included, about a boy with a sunny disposition in love with a subdued girl, and I was enjoying it pretty well while I was expecting a bittersweet ending, but the actual resolution was kind of disappointing.

This series definitely has patchy success in terms of keeping the right balance between episodic stories and character development; it didn’t manage too well this time.

Hana-Kimi 22 by Hisaya Nakajo: B

From the back cover:
When Mizuki is almost caught changing clothes, the school goes wild with rumors about a mysterious girl on campus! Can our heroine keep her secret, or will she be outed and separated from Sano, just when their relationship is blossoming?

So, you’ve been keeping a secret from the one you love for ages and you’re worried they’ll hate you if you tell them now. To work up the courage to confess you:

a. seek spiritual guidance
b. get drunk
c. take up karate

If you answered C, you’re as illogical as Mizuki! And don’t forget to guard the secret of your gender by changing clothes right next to a window!

Although Mizuki’s motivation for joining karate was dumb, I did at least enjoy the scenes with the R.A.s and Mizuki where she admitted the truth and a conference was held to decide what to do about it. Sano stood by her, and there were some good scenes between them. The only annoying thing about those chapters was that flamboyant R.A. Himejima kept spouting his pretentious German phrases throughout, like he couldn’t dispense with them even for a serious situation.

I was pretty happy with the resolution to all of that, but then! In a stupid, stupid plot development, one of the R.A.s confessed to his girlfriend that he’d accidentally glimpsed another girl’s cleavage and thusly was so ashamed that he needed time to himself to deal with this “grave sin” (*eyeroll*). The rumor of a girl on campus then migrated back to Osaka High. Have I mentioned this is stupid? It’s another case of having a character do something moronic just to further the plot along. I’m glad there’s just one volume left of this series.

Basara 26 by Yumi Tamura: B

From the back cover:
Sarasa’s quest for freedom has ended, but the story isn’t over yet! In this volume of special side stories, Yumi Tamura goes deeper than ever before to explore the characters and world of Basara. Hijiri and Nachi recount childhood memories of ships, sea monsters, and mermaids. A band of star-crossed rebels arises in another time—and changes the course of Sarasa’s battle. And Tatara finds his true calling… as a pop star?

These stories weren’t bad, but they really weren’t anything awesome, either.

The first story, “Nakama” (fellowship), featured Hijiri and Nachi and showed how they originally became friends and also tied in with both of them moving on with their lives and thinking of starting families. It was cute. That’s about as much as can be said about it.

In “Dakara” (because), Asagi attempted to explain his dislike of Shuri to his manservant by describing an incident wherein a beloved peach got smooshed. Really, that was all it was. It was very short, though it at least provided the info that Asagi was indeed on his way to visit Hijiri and Nachi.

The bulk of the volume was occupied by “Katana” (sword), a tale about an ultimately unsuccessful band of rebels who fought against the royal family a few generations before the heroes of the main story. I liked parts of this a good deal, especially all the unrequited love going on, but it was just too short (even with 100 pages) to really get to know the characters. I did like how Tara, the sole female warrior in the group, tied in with the main cast. Some of the other connections were obvious (we already knew Hayato was descended from one of these guys), but hers was a surprise.

I haven’t much to say about the pop star thing, other than that it was pure silliness. And it had a cameo by Motomichi! That alone was worth something, at least.