Graphic Novels: A Heroic Troll, Ghostly Girl, and Slice-of-Life Manga | July 2018 Xpress Reviews

A kind owl helps a spirit remember her past; Skilled fighter Hinako must hide her identity while revealing her strength at an all-boys school; a collection of animal comics will satisfy every readers' taste.

Arawi, Keiichi. City 1. tr. from Japanese by Jenny McKeon. illus. by Keiichi Arawi. 170p. Vertical. Mar. 2018. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781945054785.

Gr 9 Up –Midori Nagumo has no job or cash, and her rent is two months late. When her best friend refuses to loan her the back rent, Midori must venture into the bustling city to get the money any way she can. But finding a job, pawning her belongings, and even stealing are harder than they seem as she becomes wrapped up in the everyday problems of those around her. Helping a clumsy chef, catching thieves, and running from her landlady are just the start of Midori’s adventures. This absurd, delightfully illustrated title from the creator of the anime and manga Nichijou (My Ordinary Life) is anything but boring. As in the slice-of-life Yotsuba&! and Princess Jellyfish, short vignettes blend to tell a larger story involving multiple characters who overdramatize every situation. Though simply drawn, the characters are deeply expressive. At times, plain backgrounds focus on people or highlight motion, but when there’s less action, there’s so much detail in the shops and homes that the city itself becomes a character. VERDICT Silly and fun, this is a great pick for nearly all manga collections.–Thomas Jonte, Pensacola State College, FL

Fosgitt, Jay. Bodie Troll. illus. by Jay Fosgitt. 272p. KaBOOM! Mar. 2018. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781684151240.

Gr 2-5 –Bodie Troll can’t scare anyone, from the goats tromping over his bridge to the townspeople. However, he has some good friends, a young woman named Cholly and her fairy godmother, who run the local pub and pay him to run errands in exchange for roots. These tasks turn into big adventures, and the little troll becomes a hero instead of the monster of the story he believes himself to be. This graphic novel is told in short, mostly stand-alone adventures, but they all cohere into an overarching narrative. The humor is child-friendly, with a lot of toilet-related gags, but the characters and plot lines are pleasingly complex. Gorgeous, vibrant illustrations feature wonderfully expressive characters. Dialogue and artwork work together seamlessly. Though at first the book appears to focus on the young troll, Cholly, too, is central to the tale. A plot reveal at the end will leave children begging for more installments. VERDICT A funny, poignant work for most graphic novel collections.–Elizabeth Nicolai, Anchorage Public Library, AK

Franco. The Ghost, the Owl. illus. by Sara Richard. 48p. Action Lab. Apr. 2018. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9781632293596.

Gr 5 Up –The ghost of a young girl dances at the edge of the forest. An owl known for his altruism chooses to help her regain her memories. They find a familiar cottage and a living woman inside who knows the girl’s name. A vicious man demands that the woman sell him the cottage. When she refuses and he tries to assault her, the owl defends her, rousing the ire of the animal community, who have sworn to leave humans to their own devices. The longer the ghost stays in the cottage, the more she recalls her past life, including her name, but what will she do when the man returns, ready to burn the cottage to the ground? The artwork eschews traditional panels and borders in lieu of full-page artwork and well-placed text bubbles. While the story stands on its own, the art is front and center: readers will sympathize with the wide-eyed, innocent ghost the second she appears, and the owl’s selflessness is reflected in his more realistic design, compared with the ominous look of his fellow animals. The eye candy of the illustrations at times overtakes the narrative, and the climactic sequences featuring the antagonistic man take on a nightmarish tone, which might startle younger readers. VERDICT At once a graphic novel and a work of fine art, this is a strong addition to comics collections.–Matisse Mozer, Los Angeles Public Library

Lafrenais, Amanda, ed. Tim’rous Beastie. illus. by various. 300p. Iron Circus Comics. Feb. 2018. pap. $30. ISBN 9781945820120.

Gr 8 Up –Enchanting from the first entry, this collection of widely varying short comics is a thrilling dive into the psyche of the animal kingdom. In the epic “Chimera,” an ant architect commissioned by the queen to redesign their anthill into a never-before-seen engineering marvel discovers that the colony has been infiltrated by an enemy wasp. “The Long Bridge” is a heartwarming tale in which bunnies find true love, fulfilling prophetic folklore. The visuals enhance the work—dark, chilling art in a story about existential crises in the afterlife; round, buoyant illustrations in a cartoonish depiction of family loyalty. Readers will be horrified, charmed, and then creeped out all over again. VERDICT A captivating selection for graphic novel enthusiasts and fairy-tale lovers.–Michael Marie Jacobs, Darlington School, GA

Shimada, Chie. Kenka Bancho Otome: Love’s Battle Royale; Vol. 1. illus. by Chie Shimada. 200p. Viz Media. Apr. 2018. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781421599106.

Gr 7 Up –Raised in an orphanage where she was frequently bullied, Hinako learned to fight to survive. She hopes that Kotobuki Girls’ High School will be a chance to make friends at last. On her way there, Hinako meets a strange boy who looks just like her and tricks her into taking his place on his first day of school. She goes along with the plan only to discover that she is now attending an all-boys school for delinquents. To her surprise, her fighting skills will come in handy and her dreams of friendship will come true. In this action-packed, madcap story, Hinako surmounts numerous challenges, all while concealing her true identity and learning to trust her fellow students. There are hints of romance, but love stays on the back burner in this first volume of the series. (The enticing tagline “Beautiful Boy Rebels Using Their Fists To Fall in Love” is not entirely accurate.) Featuring attractive, dramatic close-ups, the art mirrors the frenetic narrative. VERDICT A fast-paced manga for those who enjoy stories about mistaken identities, exceeding expectations, and overcoming the odds.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

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