For insecure High school student Shizuka Shiroyama life is difficult enough, what with overprotective parents, a new friendship, and budding romance, with fellow student and artist Mamrou Tadami, and the usual growing pains of early adolescence.

The fact that she suffers from an condition that renders her invisible doesnt help matters.

Translucent, first written and drawn in 2003 by Kazukiro Okamoto, and which to date has had three volumes published in the west by Dark Horse comics, follows the life of Shizuka as she tries to live a normal life, whilst having to live with peer pressure, following her dream of becoming an actress and surviving the various anxieties of life, pressure that frequently results in her condition – called “Translucent syndrome” – causing her to become invisible, further increasing her insecurities, both in herself and in her friends.

The artwork for this series, although not in the same standard as to the likes of Ken Akamatsu [love hina] or of Kaoru Mori [Emma], still has the power to move and to entertain the reader, in particular I found that the artists ability to draw Shizuka in her various stages of invisibility but yet still keep her proportions and her effects on her environments in exact scale to be truly amazing, and worth other artists taking notes on.

proof that true love sees beyond the surface - visible or otherwise

And its he use of “Translucent syndrome” that marks this series out from the usual fare of shojou manga, with the conditions increasing or decreasing states used to highlight Shizuka’s mental state or insecurity at the time, although for a culture that has a low regard for those with conditions that makes anyone less than normal, the students and staff at her school seem strangely accepting and helpful towards her.

All in all though I found it an entertaining and welcome read, and I’d recommend it to anyone.

In fact you could say that this is one manga that you shouldn’t ignore.

Princess Ghibli CD

When Hayo Miyazaki commissioned the soundtrack for my neighbour Tottoro, I’m sure he had a particular theme and style in mind……

I’m sure however, that he wasn’t expecting a heavy metal rendition.

Princess Ghibli is a CD album released by italian record company Coroner Records and features rock band imaginary flying machines, Disarmonia and a number of other bands and solo singers who give their own…. unique interpretation to 12 of Studio ghibli’s iconic soundtracks – from Ettore Rigotti and blood stain childs powerful rendition of Teru no Uta [ from tales of earthsea], to Disarmonia Mundia and Sophia Aslanidou’s take on Arriety’s song [ from the upcoming the borrower Arriety] – if you don’t find yourself head banging to at least one of these songs then you have no soul.

Now I’m sure that for some the idea of a heavy metal version of Tottoro might not be for everyone [although I swear the male singer sounds just like him] but if your a Ghibli fan, you have to get this CD.

The only minor problem with this is the fact that [other than Japan] the only way to get this Album is to either import the CD from Japan , where its getting its [to date] only Physical release, or via downloading it from I tunes or Amazon – but hey, its only £7.99, thats what – Half a ghibli DVD?

But don’t take my word for it…..

Onegai teacher

Okay, what I’m about to write may shock some of you, possibly offend others, and probably confuse the rest of you.
So, here goes…… [Takes deep breath]
I like Onegai teacher.
There, I said it.
And now, for the confused, an explanation….

Onegai teacher was a fourteen part manga series written by please! [real name unknown] and drawn by Shizuru Hayashya. It was originally released in two paperback books in 2002 by Comics one to coincide with the original anime series animated by Bandai [and which in turn resulted in three sequels], and two light novels.
The series tells the story of Kai Kusanagi, your stereotypical Japanese schoolboy who, despite suffering a rare condition that causes him to go into a vegetative state for long periods of time, leads a pretty ordinary life.
That is until the arrival of his new teacher – Mizuho Kazami – who shakes up Kei’s world in more ways than one…

For one thing she isn’t even from his world!

Add to this the complications that lead to Kei and Mizuho becoming married, Kazumi’s ship becoming damaged, and thus stranding her on Earth, an over – amorous mother, an over – protective younger sister, a high school relationship chart more complex than the wiring of an ICBM missile….
Oh, and did I forget to mention that Kei’s married to his teacher?

And as you can see the result is hardly your average manga series.

kei and mizuho - the ultimate odd couple?

All in all the series, which sadly ended after only fourteen chapters, had the potential to be greater, however [and here I have to bite the bullet] the series suffers from a major flaw that otherwise prevent this – namely the artwork.
The artist, Shizuru Hayashya, admitted that this was his first attempt at drawing romance manga, having come from a background of drawing more violent, bloody serials – and it shows, with the artwork looking too cramped together, with little time for background details, which for me detracted from the story.

However, take heart. If you are willing to see past these flaws, you will find a series which both captivates and at times will mercilessly pull at your heartstrings – from Kei’s first meeting with kazami’s assistant noh, to the series’ tearjerker ending.

Buy it – this is a priority one!