After Hours Volume 3 Review

“This is a scene that will only ever exist here… and we made it ourselves!”

Past some major concerns and milestones and seemingly comfortable, Emi and Kei’s focus shifts to preparing for their dream event.

 

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This is the final installment of After Hours, and it serves as a fitting endcap to the story of Emi and Kei’s romance all in all. The rave event was extremely well done, with things progressing well and retaining the feel of the previous volumes I adored so much.

However towards the end things felt more constructed, which is understandable but one of the wonders of this tale was how natural and real things felt. A recurring theme in manga I don’t care for is used and it starts to feel like the characters are acting in certain ways to serve the story, instead of the story arising from their personalities and actions. There were a couple of points where I felt the characters had easier outs than what they actually did/said, and the emotions and motivations behind those choices weren’t as well developed or explained as in the previous volumes.

That said, a third of this volume being a slight step down from the lofty heights of the rest of the series still leaves this as a great read overall. In my review of volume 2 I said this short manga was becoming something special, and that opinion stands in retrospect.

Another Wonderful Way Pro-Wrestling is Art 2

In Another Wonderful Way Pro-Wrestling is Art I talked about the the wrestling centric work of Rob Schamberger. Here, in addition to featuring more from Rob, I’d also like to spotlight another artist who specializes in wrestling related creations as well as an artist readers of this blog will be well familiar with who has entered the realm of drawing professional wrestlers as the result of commission requests from me. 😉

 

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A mix of originals and prints of Rob Schamberger’s striking work.

 

WWE’s Asuka (formerly Kana) is a longtime favorite of mine, and was the subject of first wrestling related commission request I ever made (top left above). She has remained central to collection (and will come up again later), particularly in terms of Rob’s wonderful mixed media creations which generally start with a framework from a photo of the subject and grow from there via Rob’s creativity, expert techniques, and incredible use of color. I’ve also added an original painting (as well as signed print) of current NXT Women’s Champion and Stardom alumni Kairi Sane (formerly Kairi Hojo) that nicely capture the unique presence and charisma of the Pirate Princess.

 

More information about Rob’s art can be found on his website.

 

 

 

As I mentioned in Beautiful Dreams and Beautiful Dreams 2, I’ve been a fan of Juri H Chinchilla’s amazing art for several years and have been fortunate enough to develop a nice collection of her work.

One of the more unique requests I made among a plethora of video game and anime characters was a card featuring one of my favorite professional wrestlers, Mitsuru Konno from Gatoh Move. I thought Juri’s style would be perfect for this and it came out far beyond my high expectations. I specified only the subject here, and I adore the incredible way Juri captured and combined Mitsuru’s strength, determination, grace, and beauty in her remarkable hand drawn rendition. From there I got even more excited about having her draw more wrestlers. Asuka of course was on the list, and Juri wonderfully depicted her striking presence and style.

Aoi Kizuki is a personal favorite of mine who recently retired, so Juri’s fantastic rendition of her will be a treasured momento of a wrestler who will be greatly missed. The little details, like the patterns and textures on both Aoi’s and Asuka’s outfits and the highlighting use of metallics really make these incredible works come to life.

 

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Dash Chisako PSC by Juri H. Chinchilla.

 

Sendai Girl’s Dash Chisako is my favorite high flyer in all of wrestling, and I’m amazed and ecstatic with how perfectly Juri captured Dash mid flight performing her trademark frog splash. Having Dash performing one of her flying moves is the most specific I got with any of my wrestler requests for Juri, and she absolutely knocked it out of the park. The likeness, colors, sense of motion, etc are all pitch perfect.

 

More information about Juri’s art can be found on her artist page.

 

 

 

Shining Wizard Designs is another artist who specializes in depictions of wrestlers, in this case wonderfully stark, hyper realistic black and white ink drawings he regularly shares on social media. I adore the striking assortment of pieces of his I’ve gotten, and have been lucky enough to get a few of them signed by the wrestlers. In addition to excellent versions of the previously mentioned Asuka and Dash, SWD drew the reigning Wave Pro Tag Team Champions Bossy to Mammy (Marvelous’ rising star Mio Momono and Wave veteran Yumi Ohka) as well as Ice Ribbon’s MMA trained rookies Team DATE (Hana, Nao, Nori, and Karen) for me.

Aoi isn’t the only wrestler I follow retiring this year, so in tribute I commissioned a combination piece featuring Aoi, Wave’s Mika Iida, and Tokyo Joshi Pro’s Maho Kurone, as well as a stand alone piece of Wave’s Misaki Ohata (who will retire in December) doing one of her gorgeous flying cross bodies. Of course later even more retirements were announced, which gives subjects for the future I suppose. 😉 I will miss all of these wrestlers greatly but wish them the best.

 

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Gatoh Move (Mitsuru Konno, Sayaka Obihiro, Emi Sakura, and Riho) by Shining Wizard Designs.

 

Finally, I had a piece done featuring some of the core members of Gatoh Move, a small, wonderful company run by the incredible Emi Sakura. In addition to Emi and Mitsuru (from Juri’s work above), Gatoh’s ace Riho and lynchpin Sayaka Obihiro are also pictured. I’m extremely happy with SWD’s work and greatly appreciate the opportunity to get these done.

 

More information about Shining Wizard Designs art can be found on Twitter.

 

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Thanks again to all three of these artists for their impressive creations.

Kindaichi Case Files Volume 5 Review

Each case in this manga is a stand alone mystery, and we are still fairly early in the series. So while reading in order will be better to understand the recurring characters, it’s not necessary to enjoy the individual stories.

Hajime Kindaichi is tricked into qualifying for a treasure hunt on an isolated island, thinking his family is in financial trouble. The reward soon becomes the furthest thing from his mind when the fortune seekers find themselves trapped on the island with a murderer.

 

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The Kindaichi Case Files manga continues to be somewhat formulaic in that each case is set up in classical mystery style. We get some set up, meet potential victims/suspects, something bad happens and away we go. The fun with this series is the way pieces of the story combine and the fact that Kindaichi’s adventures are always pretty distinct, interesting, and clever. Treasure Isle gives us a particularly weird cast of characters with diverse reactions to what’s happening. This mystery felt different than the others, which is always nice in a genre where things can get repetitive. I really liked the twists in this one and the way it all came together. As always while some plot details will remain obscured until spelled out there are clues throughout and the main mystery is solvable.

One of the best volumes yet. Highly recommended.

Kindaichi Case Files Volume 4 Review

Each case in this manga is a stand alone mystery, and we are still very early in the series. So while reading in order will be better to understand the recurring characters, it’s not necessary to enjoy the individual stories.

After three cases finding Hajime Kindaichi during his travels matters of life and death now visit him closer to home. When an old school building is scheduled for demolition threatening letters arrive from the “Afterschool Magician,” a legend around the school with ties to seven gruesome mystery stories passed down through the years. But the threats become something worse when the mystery club starts investigating the rumors.

 

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Smoke and Mirrors is a solid blend of several plotlines that converge nicely at the end. Themes of magic and misdirection are incorporated well and provide nice layers and twists to the mystery. The ties to the school’s history and previous investigations into the seven mysteries added a good amount of intrigue to the story. As a whole I found this volume a slight step down from the previous ones, although not for any particular reason I can point to and it is still quite good. As usual there are clues throughout and while some story details will be beyond deduction the core of the mystery is solvable.

The translation of this particular mystery presented some extra difficulty for the publisher, which they handled well and explain in detail at the end.

Overall another solid installment featuring our favorite high school detective.

Kindaichi Case Files Volume 3 Review

Each case in this manga is a stand alone mystery, and we are still very early in the series. So while reading in order will be better to understand the recurring characters, it’s not necessary to enjoy the individual stories.

Hajime Kindaichi travels to a remote villa during winter break as an intern for a reality tv show, Shock TV. When a supposed prank turns into an actual murder he must team with an old acquaintance from the police force to not only stop the killer, but to do it faster than a new superintendent with something to prove.

 

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Like the previous volumes we get set up and meet key characters upfront and then descend into a tense race against time after the first body hits. One of the things I like most about this series is how it finds unique ways to put little twists on established mystery elements while still retaining a classic feel. Leaving Miyuki home for this one and having a cop on Kindaichi’s side for a change shakes up the dynamic a little and makes things interesting. There are also some nice turns the mystery takes during the volume including a wonderfully clever double twist. The characters were strong here and seeing Akechi try to solve the mystery in parallel was interesting.

These stories do require some level of suspension of disbelief, and a key element to this one strains it quite a bit for some readers. Personally I didn’t find it much more implausible than some of the things in the first two, but be aware that while things are kept in the realm of reality and proceed logically drama does take precedence when needed. As usual there are clues throughout and while some story details will be beyond deduction the core of the mystery is solvable.

A fair amount of this story hinges on the visuals and the art does a great job conveying atmosphere, tension and all the relevant information.

I really enjoyed Death TV and Kindaichi’s adventures are clearly just getting started.

Kindaichi Case Files Volume 2 Review

Each case in this manga is a stand alone mystery, and we are still very early in the series. So while reading in order will be better to understand the recurring characters, it’s not necessary to enjoy the individual stories.

 

The Mummy’s Curse brings our highschool detective and his best friend to a strange isolated village in the country by way of a school scandal. When preparations for their classmate’s arranged wedding are interrupted with murder Hajime must unravel the truth behind the village’s curse.

 

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Like volume 1 (The Opera House Murders), this is a classically built murder mystery. Some key setup and all the players established up front and then the danger and tension hit hard and build rapidly. There are a lot of interlocking layers here to explain and the resolution spans most of the second half of the volume, but it’s all done very well. One of the main secrets is a classic twist that has been seen before. But everything comes together and is used in unique ways and combinations, making this a very interesting read. There are also some great little touches and instances of the author playing with preconceptions. Subtle clues are available and while the reader will never piece out every little detail the core mystery is solvable, which makes these stories particularly intriguing.

The art is extremely good. It’s well detailed, easy to follow and conveys atmosphere and tension wonderfully, acting as a great component to the storytelling.

The Mummy’s Curse is a strong second installment in Kanari and Sato’s mystery series and continues to build momentum for more stories about our young detective.

Kindaichi Case Files Volume 1 Review

The Opera House Murders introduces Hajime Kindaichi, deceptively smart grandson of a famous detective and under-achieving best friend of straight-A student Miyuki Nanase. An isolated retreat for a drama club practice already darkened by the recent suicide of the former lead gets even more tragic when guest start dying in a similar manner to the play they’re rehearsing – The Phantom of the Opera.

 

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This is a murder mystery with all the classical trimmings. Our cast and the setting is slowly established to start and then from the first strike on it’s a tense race to figure everything out and stop the killings. The various layers to the story and twists to the mystery are extremely well done and all integrated together flawlessly. And while there are pieces of the motive not revealed until the end there are clues and a good chunk of it all is solvable as you read. Add in a carefully developed dark and dangerous atmosphere and a smart adversary and it all comes together quite impressively. There is a fair bit of exposition towards the end, but it’s presented well and is needed to unravel all the cleverly connected elements of the solution.

The art is detailed, clean, and easy to follow. This is all extremely important for a mystery, where establishing clues, characters and even the geography of their surroundings can all be vital to having the plot unfold properly.

I’ve always loved a good mystery, and Kanari and Sato’s manga about a deceptively bright high school student descended from a famous detective is a wonderful collection of them. The Kindaichi Case Files is a fantastic series and The Opera House Murders gets us off to a great start.