7 Billion Needles vol1

If Puella Magi Madoka Magica intends to shake our perception of the animated magical girl series, then 7 billion Needles is its spiritual manga cousin.

This first volume of an intended 4 volume series by upand coming mangaka Nobuaki Tadano, and in turn based off of the American sci-fi novel Needle, by the late sci fi legend Hal clements, is released by US manga company Vertical [whose repertoire also include the works of manga godfather Osamu Tezuka].

We are introduced to Hikaru Takade – a quiet , introverted school girl who, after the death of her parents, and despite having loving step-parents, hides herself away from both them, her classmates and indeed the world at large via her headphones and music – both used brilliantly in representing her isolation.

However her self imposed isolation is violently ripped away from her when she is accidentally killed when the alien entity Horizon arrives on earth, whereupon Horizon is forced to bond with her to not only save her, but to survive in earth’s environment itself. Horizon also has the ability to grant Hikaru supernatural powers, like strength and energy blasts, all of which come in handy, as Hikaru has been thrust into a race against time to stop the malicious, world – threatening entity maelstrom.

Does she have what it take to save the very world that she wants to hide away from?

The first thing that struck me about 7 billion needles is its initial similarity to another, more famous Japanese series, namely the live action series Ultraman, and on the surface its plot does match it in ways – namely the fact that Horizon is forced to bond with Hikaru in part out of guilt for killing her, and for the sake of self preservation, and the fact that they both fight to stop a monster fresh from the sound lot of Toei studios.

And yet at the same time Nobuaki Tadano doesn’t ignore hikaru’s “normal” life and as the volume develops we see Hikaru gradually change, both in her interaction with the world but also with her fellow students – and what’s more there are also hints of further past history that, while not covered in too much detail in this volume, I definably get the impression that there’s more to be told.

And that’s what made me enjoy this the most – from the cover [with its penguin books like appearance] with its clear, well paced and almost movie-like pacing and illustration – to it dramatic climax – everything about this series screams excellence.
At the end of the day, with only three more volumes to go, I hope that Tadano can continue to maintain the quality of this first volume.

well? what are you waiting for? Get buying it now!


Love Roma vol 1

When the male lead of Love Roma, forthright and worryingly honest Hoshino, confesses his feelings towards the female lead, Negishi, in the very first chapter – in fact in the very first frame of the very first page – you know this isn’t going to be your average series.

Written by newcomer Minoru Toyoda, originally published in shonen afternoon [ from which Oh my goddess, Genshiken, blade the immortals and many others originated] and published in the west by Del Ray, Love Roma seems to not just throw away the book on romance manga but to shred it, feed it to their pet ferret, and then burn the resulting by-products.
In this, the first volume of a 5 volume series [ romance fans on a budget take note] we see our romantic duo go through such earth shattering problems as a first kiss, their first fight [and their subsequent make up] their first date….
yeeeah, not exactly MARS or kare kano I know – but look at it this way.
Love roma is best seen as a more relaxed, leisurely take on the Shonen genre with potential love rivals shot down with the same lack of angst and over the top drama as the aforementioned first fight. As a result I found that is format meant that I found it easy to pick up, read an episode or two and then put down again – it doesn’t demand much from its reader but to relax and enjoy the ride.

So if you want a shojou series that doesn’t involve 20+ volumes of the lead characters angsting over their feelings for each other then make an effort to find this intriguing little series out.