Author Topic: Krozam's Manga Diary  (Read 33182 times)

Offline Krozam

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Krozam's Manga Diary
« on: July 28, 2011, 07:17:26 pm »
A relaunch of the topic where I'll occasionally review a manga that I've just read and liked. Usually short ones or ones just getting started, but maybe I'll sometimes review a long one as well. Hopefully someone will find these reviews useful. I won't mind it if someone else posts recommendations, reviews or comments, it's more fun if there's dialogue.

Neji by Yuki Kaori

I just read it through for the third time. Yuki Kaori is one of my favourite mangaka, ever since I read (the first half of) Angel Sanctuary. Neji is a shorter work, only three chapters, and it's pretty much the only tragic story that I've read/watched more than twice in my life. I usually avoid tragedy, and those rare times that I feel like reading/watching something tragic, I usually go with something new, since there's no shortage of great stuff to read/watch. Neji is just such a cool story that I don't mind reading it again every two years or so.

Yuki Kaori's art is beautiful in a messy way. It's confusing and sketchy, yet the male characters are cool, the females beautiful and it perfectly conveys the beauty and tragedy of certain scenes. I'd say that characters are her strong point, especially when they're close to each other. I find exceptional beauty and emotion in every hug, every kiss and every backstab that these characters perform.

In my experience, Yuki Kaori's works are never thematically empty. Quite the contrary, for example Neji manages to reflect upon several more or less deep themes in its short run, starting with how the society fucks up the individual and ending with thoughts on the value that the life of an artificial intelligence may have. Some of them are prominent, some are merely scratches on the surface, but all in all there's LOTS of food for thought in this story.

You can't make a one-volume manga very complex of plot, but at least it's not terribly clichéd. Naturally there are elements I've seen many times elsewhere, but there's nothing I've seen too much (with one possible exception). The greatest weak point in the story, I think, is the storytelling, which is a little messy and hasty. The messy art really doesn't help the matter.

In a tragedy, you always need good characters, characters you get attached to. In this particular case, the mangaka doesn't give all that much depth to those who die, choosing to concentrate on those who remain to grieve for them. It works, more or less. I can't say I shed tears reading Neji, but I definitely feel the sorrow of the characters who lose their loved ones. The story is short, so naturally there's no much time to deepen the characters, but the cast stays small and the story is tightly wrapped around their lives.

The final factor I'm going to analyze is the action. There's quite enough of it, and somewhat amusingly, it's both a weak point and a strong point in the story. The words "messy" and "confusing" apply once again, but still... some of the action scenes are just so damn cool. Whatever shortcomings the art has with clarity and fluidity of movement, it makes up with great expressions and occasional really cool panels. The plot and dialogue also contibute to making some the action scenes stand out with epicness and coolness.

All in all, Neji is nearly a masterpiece. Maybe it tries to fit too much material into too few pages, it could've been much better given another volume, but the quality of its themes, characters and crowning moments of awesome is undeniable. It is also noteworthy that the story is scifi - I usually dislike Japanese scifi. Scifi and tragedy, and yet I've read it three times... only a very good story could make me do that.

Oh boy, that ended up being much longer than I intended. Don't expect my every review to be a wall of text. Maybe it's time to finally finish Angel Sanctuary, now that I'm in the right mood. Or maybe I'll start with some unread Yuki Kaori work next...

Edit: Almost forgot...
Music I listened to while reading: Within Temptation (the newest album) and Shinrei Tantei Yakumo OST.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2011, 01:47:28 am by Krozam »

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Re: Krozam's Manga Diary
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2011, 12:44:02 am »
Okay, I just caught up with Nurarihyon no Mago, read the last 11 chapters, and I must say that the last two chapters (161-162) are easily the coolest of them all. So. Fucking. Cool! This manga has always been the epitome of sheer coolness to me, and the last two chapters are, in my opinion, among the very best so far. What most amazing is that they take place during the day, for the most part, so they manage to be so damn cool without even relying on a nightly atmosphere. For the first time, the Day Rikuo is so cool that it's easily on par with his night form. All in all, thoroughly enjoyable. :D

BTW, I always listen to Disciple when reading NuraMago. Especially Southern Hospitality has just the right feeling.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2011, 01:43:54 am by Krozam »

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Re: Krozam's Manga Diary
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2011, 01:02:01 am »
Iris Zero by Pro Shiki and Hotaru Takana



From now on, I think I'll accompany my "diary" entries with an image.

I don't know how I was able to put off reading Iris Zero until now, but I'm glad I did. I followed it from the start until the 7th chapter (I even posted in my old manga diary about it) and then something made me take a break, which come to be a long one. Quite conveniently so, because the 10th chapter begins the first long arc, and I sure am glad I didn't read it until its concluding chapter, the 20th, was out. There are some bad cliffhangers.

For me, Iris Zero is the rare kind of manga where every single page is an enjoyment on its own. The art is excellent (and thankfully the scans are good quality), every line of the dialogue feels important, every panel is worth paying attention to. It lacks all the boring "filler" material, and yet it also lacks any unnecessary sense of urgency. The storytelling is damn near perfect in every way, save a few hard-to-spot plotholes.

Let's start with the art. The picture above is coloured in a special way, so let me give you an example of the b&w art:

Beautiful, isn't it? This manga has a very clear and pleasant art style, where the panels are arranged with skill, where the emotional, dramatic and dark moments are all presented with equal skill. The girls are all really cute, and the guys, while they may seem ordinary at first, they all have some really cool moments. Last, but not least, the expressions are truly fantastic. There is strength in the style's simplicity, I can't help admiring the skill that makes every panel worth paying attention to, without relying on any kind of complex artistry.

The settings are quite simple, based on one conceptual innovation: everyone around the main character has a supernatural power, he alone among the important characters is what we think as "ordinary". Sounds interesting, but only as the settings for a short story, not really much potential for a long series, right? Well, these authors have apparently made it their mission to prove that kind of thinking wrong. Four volumes, and the story just keeps getting more interesting, without really adding any major elements into the settings. High school settings, practically no action, it's all just slice of life and detective stuff with a strong supernatural flavour and a romantic undertone.

It works far better than you'd expect: I've rarely been as excited by a battle manga as I was all the time while reading the arc that spanned from ch 10 to 20. This is a story that allows you to think and enjoy it, while not forcing you to do it, like most of those complex, psychological, dark-toned manga (Death Note, Liar Game etc.) It's not the most intelligent story I've read, there are a few plotholes here and there (the downside of the convenient abilities almost every character possesses is that they tend to open plotholes, especially the one that detects lies), but it's just twisty enough for my taste. It has moments of darkness and psychological depth, without ever getting truly depressing and heavy to read. Excellent balance, just as I like it.

The dialogue deserves a paragraph of its own. It's thorougly brilliant, never rushed yet always meaningful. Together with the art it makes the emotional scenes truly touching and the dramatic scenes truly cool. Every line has a purpose, whether it is plot-related, character-deepening, dramatic, funny or just a plain name or sound in the right place. I love the flow of the dialogue in this manga. Also, I really have to give the translator and editor the recognition they're due for their excellent work on this manga.

While the mysteries are all superficially centered on the "Iris", the supernatural, sight-related abilities that nearly every young person in that world possesses, in truth they're all character-related and heavy on psychology. While the protagonist's friends all have useful Irises, it's his ability that is always on the key role in the solving of the mystery. His ability to think from the POV of other people and make connections. He's the kind of "detective" who gets inside the heads of everyone involved and builds the picture from there. That's what makes him interesting, he's the rare kind of protagonist who's seemingly powerless, but actually very intelligent. There are other dimensions to his character, but to me, the most important thing about him is his intelligence. I'm thoroughly tired of stupid protagonists that get through every problem with hard-headedness.

So, Iris Zero is very character-centered and psychological. Well, it's a good thing that it's also one of the first manga I've ever read where every single major character is interesting. Not one of them is annoying in the slightest, they all have very distinct personalities and their own appeal. The main female character is ridiculously adorable and has the ability that's usually associated with a shounen protagonist: the ability to affect people with her words and deeds, her conviction. Her best friend has a discordant personality despite having a strong sense of justice, and the male lead's best friend has the most interesting, dark-toned Iris and excellent acting abilities. Then there are two more major characters who both have complex, central roles in the long arc which had me figuratively speaking sitting on the edge of my chair. But now I'm simplifying things. Each of those characters is remarkably multi-layered, and I fully expect to see more character development and layers unveiled in the future.

Finally, a word on the romance. So far love has played a prominent part in both dark and light parts in this manga, being a major motivator and driving force for many characters. Thankfully, it seems like there won't be a love triangle involving the male lead, even if the female lead is very popular. It seems like a very clean-cut, sweet romance with the potential to even make me cry. It's possible that the authors will start stalling, get scared of actually making something of it before the end - but since this is a seinen manga and so far it hasn't let me down about anything, I hold my hopes high.

I had forgotten how good this manga is when I posted my top 5 list in the other thread a while back - today I corrected the mistake and put Iris Zero in its rightful place as my fourth-favourite manga. I do hope it gets a good anime adaptation some day, because this gem seriously needs more exposure and acknowledgement. If I were to rate it like I rate my anime, I'd probably give it either 4.5 or full 5 stars, that's how good it is.

Music: Poets of the Fall. Mostly Save Me, but in the darker-toned moments I listen to some others, like Carnival of Rust, Shallow and Dying to Live. In the really romantic, atmospheric moments, Rewind.

Uh... I only wrote this much because I love the manga so much, I swear this won't become a trend! >.<
« Last Edit: July 30, 2011, 01:18:58 am by Krozam »

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Offline Krozam

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Re: Krozam's Manga Diary
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2011, 11:51:44 pm »
Hehe... I found something that should prove helpful in getting people to read Negima:
http://media.photobucket.com/image/the%20evolution%20of%20negi/burnpsy/Negima%20Images/EvolutionofNegimaV2.gif
Not that it's bad in the beginning, but these days it's just awesome.

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Offline Krozam

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Re: Krozam's Manga Diary
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2011, 05:46:37 pm »
WTF?? The latest Negima chapter is absolutely terrible! A long and epic arc was practically ended is a very abrupt and anticlimatic way. :( My initial reaction:

(click to show/hide)

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Offline Zarich

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Re: Krozam's Manga Diary
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2011, 07:55:50 pm »
WTF?? The latest Negima chapter is absolutely terrible! A long and epic arc was practically ended is a very abrupt and anticlimatic way. :( My initial reaction:

(click to show/hide)

Really? Good. I actually,  really hated the Magical World arc truth be told. I know that itw as like set up since like the start with Asuna's flashback dream in the Kansai Magic Association Arc but yeah..

Offline Krozam

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Re: Krozam's Manga Diary
« Reply #6 on: October 24, 2011, 02:47:40 pm »
Just read the 5 latest chapters of Nurarihyon no Mago. Full of action and sheer coolness. I just love the brand of coolness that this manga exudes in almost every single chapter... <3 And once again, I find Disciple just perfect for the mood.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2011, 02:58:29 pm by Krozam »

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Re: Krozam's Manga Diary
« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2011, 07:58:54 am »
The Breaker manhwa is getting interesting again. New Waves started a bit boring - but then again, so did the first series - and it took thirty chapters before Shioon got back to kicking ass. But it was worth it to keep reading. I just enjoyed twenty chapters of Breaker goodness while listening to various Pain songs. This is the music that I mentally connect to Breaker, and manhwa with dark-mooded ass-kicking in general.

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Offline Krozam

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Re: Krozam's Manga Diary
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2011, 05:02:26 am »
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann - School Version (Gurren Gakuenhen)



Six chapters of energetic, hilarious school comedy. Also insanely fucking awesome. That's all you need to know, now go read it! And don't forget to listen to some badass music while you read it.

"...So if you want to stop me, you'd better ready the apocalypse!!"

I wish there was more of this. :(

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Offline Krozam

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Re: Krozam's Manga Diary
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2011, 07:17:44 pm »
Hammer Session! by Tanahashi Namoshiro and Koganemaru Yamato



...Huh. I never thought I'd find a teacher manga that seriously rivals GTO as the best of its kind. Hammer Session might not be as emotionally appealing as GTO, but it's almost as funny and wise, and the art is way superior (the girls are really hot, though there's not much fanservice). More importantly, it's much more intelligent than GTO, almost as psychologically deep and interesting as Iris Zero.

The best part about Hammer Session is the protagonist. He's not your typical male protagonist, as he's not stupid, ordinary, or even moderately intelligent: he's truly intelligent. His methods when helping his students (and occasionally other teachers) are as original as Onizuka's, but they're less emotionally appealing and motivated by feelings. This guy is a master swindler and manipulator, his methods are always well thought out and intelligent. Both ways have their good points, but I kinda prefer the intelligent way, as could be guessed from my fondness of protagonists such as TWGOK's Keima and Iris Zero's Tooru.

I'm pretty hooked, but unfortunately there are only 17 chapters translated so far. The manga is already complete with 11 volumes and a 3-volume sequel in the country of origin. It's sad when treasures like this don't get the love they deserve. :( At least there's a dorama adaptation, so I guess it's reasonably popular in Japan.

Music: Haven't found anything particularly fitting yet. I've been listening to Papa Roach, but I'm pretty sure I could find something more fitting if I really tried. Poets of the Fall would probably fit well.

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Offline Krozam

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Re: Krozam's Manga Diary
« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2011, 02:03:42 am »
Just caught up with The World God Only Knows. God, that was almost too awesome for words. Unexpectedly, epic Two Steps From Hell music fit it perfectly - despite the less than epic settings and tone, the plot and characters are just so epic. To phrase it differently, TWGOK isn't epic in the traditional sense, even though it's fantasy and has devils and goddesses... it's just so incredibly good that it deserves to be called epic. Keima is a one of a kind main character (though Mizushima Tooru of Iris Zero has many of the same qualities and is just as awesome) and the plot gets more and more... well, epic. I liked the manga from the start, and I've always liked short arcs, but this long arc is just way higher on the awesome-scale, with its unpredictable plot twists and abundance of great character development.

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Offline Krozam

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Re: Krozam's Manga Diary
« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2011, 07:57:32 am »
Continuing my project to catch up with my favourite ongoing manga. Yesterday was Kaichou wa Maid-sama's turn. I had 10 chapters to read, so I spent a very pleasant evening enjoying one of my favourite romances.



Maid-sama is truly on a different level from most shoujo romances, IMO. Sure, Usui is a bit too perfect, which makes him hard to identify with, but at least he isn't a jerk. Besides, I like cool and over-powered male leads, which is basically what he is. Misaki, on the other hand, is a female lead of the highest class. I've never seen such a splendid response from a female lead when a new character appears and claims to be the male lead's fianceé. That was the most awesome thing I've seen in a while. Both lead characters are superbly entertaining, I never get tired of their interaction.

It's getting terribly sweet, lately. I even had to change the music I listen to while reading from the kind that suits Usui's coolness into the kind that suits the new, even sweeter atmosphere. Fortunately I'm highly resistant to over-sweetness (both literally and metaphorically). On the other hand, it's kind of refreshing to read as unpretentious a romance as this for a change. It's not trying to make itself more widely accepted by being a romantic comedy or something deeper. It's simply a silly romance with comedic elements. No unnecessary drama, just enough conflict to keep it interesting (at least to me). It advances steadily through all the phases of a romance - even after they finally start going out officially, there's no sing of speeding up the pace for a climatic conclusion, the story simply goes on, like life does. There's a slight shift of focus, from Misaki's troubles to accept her feelings to Usui's troubles with his family, but that's it. Maybe I'm just a silly romantic, but I like this kind of a light, steadily advancing romance, with a taste of ordinary life rather than adventure.

Things did seem to get a little stagnant for a few chapters there, but then a new arc started (sort of... it's difficult to divide this into "arcs") and I really like the first couple of chapters. A slight change of settings and a bunch of new characters is a simple but effective way to air out a story. I'm really looking forward to the continuation.

Music: Fitting for Usui's coolness: T.M.Revolution - Untouchable Girls (You're Damm Touchable K-mix) and T.M.Revolution - Aoi Hekireki (Deep Blue Kiss U-mix). Fitting for beautiful scenes: FictionJunction Keiko - Kaze no Machi he (among others...)
« Last Edit: December 29, 2011, 09:34:25 am by Krozam »

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Offline Krozam

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Re: Krozam's Manga Diary
« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2011, 06:10:59 pm »
Kagami no Kuni no Harisugawa by Kanou Yasuhiro



I can't believe this manga has been coming out for months before I noticed it. Finally Kanou started a new long series, years after Mx0 got axed. For most of those who've read Mx0, Kagami no Kuni should automatically be a must-read - and for those who haven't read it, what are you waiting for?! Go read it! Now! It's a must-read for anyone who enjoys an intelligent shounen manga.

Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about Kagami no Kuni. The first thing I noticed is that Kanou's art has improved considerably since Mx0. I always liked how he draws girls, but now he's even better at it - and he's putting that skill into plenty of use. Kagami no Kuni has quite a high level of ecchiness. Unfortunately, it's mostly panty-shots, which I don't particularly care for (even if he does draw them relatively delicious >.<).

Plot-wise, this is quite intelligent, as can be expected from Kanou. Not superbly so, but significantly above average, especially for a shounen manga. There are nice twists every once in a while, although since this is a romantic comedy, one can't expect too much.

I'm pleased to see that Kanou has given more depth to the characters as in Mx0. That was a vital change, since there's no action, but a much stronger romance element instead. Both of the leading female characters are far deeper than their counterparts in Mx0  - although, the fact that I can recognize Aika and Mizuki in them doesn't speak well for them (even if I do like Mizuki). It's even worse with the male protagonist, who's just a pale, stalker-ish imitation of Kuzumi, who on top of all reminds me of that annoying Manaka from Ichigo 100% with his wild imagination. Still, Kanou could've chosen a worse character to base Harisugawa on - Kuzumi is easily one of my all-time favourite shounen protagonists. Harisugawa is altogether a pretty likeable guy, despite his faults. Definitely from the better end of shounen protagonists.

The comedy is hilarious most of the time - again, a thing to be expected from Kanou. His humour is pretty intelligent on average, sometimes downright brilliant and sometimes not very smart at all. He's also a good face artist, he draws great expressions, both funny and cute.

Since the beginning, I was a little worried how he'd be able to pull off a romantic comedy, because apart from somewhat shallow characters, romance is the only thing in Mx0 that isn't near perfect. So far I'm not disappointed, but I must say that it could be better. The plot is good enough to make up for the lack of romantic scenes that'd make my heart pound, but after 24 chapters, I can't say yet that I truly care about the characters and their relationships enough to consider this a high-class romance. I do like all the characters, especially Saki, but... something is still missing.

All in all, Kagami no Kuni is well worth reading, for its art, plot and comedy. For those looking for a heartwarming (or heartwrenching) romance, there are far better options, but for those looking for an above average plot and good laughs... this should entertain you well. It's not even close to as good as the brilliant Mx0, because at least in my opinion Mx0 was a more suitable story for this author, genre-wise... but it's still very good.

Music: So far I haven't found anything particularly suitable for this manga. I'll keep looking.

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Offline Krozam

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Re: Krozam's Manga Diary
« Reply #13 on: January 05, 2012, 10:30:05 pm »
Goumaden Shutendoji by Nagai Go and Natsumoto Masato



The world of Goumaden Shutendouji is harsh, cruel and perverse. When the veil between the world of humans and Hell fails, humans are powerless against the demons that come through. Taking advantage of the ugly sides of human nature, they take control of humans, killing them, making them kill each other, and worse. The sole hope of the humans in the city where the invasion takes place is the protagonist, a demon brought up believeing he was human: the guy himself has been pretty useless so far, but he has some powerful protectors. And since the demons are mainly gunning for him, his protectors are helping humans by fighting those who attack him.

The thing I love about this manga is its art. The demons are inspired by traditional Japanese oni, their designs are butt-ugly, hell-cool, and delightfully detailed. The designs of the human characters are less spectacular, but the backgrounds are also very nice. Horror and bloodshed have rarely looked so good, without going completely overboard with the gory details.

Another thing I like is the complete lack of mercy in the story. The humans in this story are seriously in deep shit. What makes it worse is that evil isn't completely externalised: the demons were apparently originally born from human vices, and all kinds of ugly feelings are what many of the demons take sadistic pleasure in releasing in their victims. It's a dark story, but I can enjoy one as long as I don't develop too deep feelings for the characters. And I don't think there's much danger of that: none of the characters are particularly likeable, that wouldn't fit in with the theme.

So far the protagonist has been pretty useless, but he intends to change that, so I'm hoping to see him kick some ass eventually. He's been holding up well, considering what he's been through: what'd you do if you found out that
(click to show/hide)

I feel sorry for the heroine, she's been given nothing but the classic damsel-in-distress role. And by "distress" I mean
(click to show/hide)

The battles have been quite entertaining so far, I'm just waiting for the protagonist to learn some basic control over his powers - and to start swinging his newly acquired sword. The atmosphere is awesomely dark and heavy, though not competely depressing: the protagonist's guardian seems to be in sufficient control of the situation most of the time. The storyflow has some problems, but it's on acceptable level IMO. The plot... well, there are some intriguing mysteries, but other than that, there's not much of a plot to begin with.

Overall, it's an enjoyable read when you happen to be in the mood for something really dark and bloody. Mainly I'd recommend it for the art: these demons make those bishie demons you mostly see in anime look like kids in a playground.

Music: Anything heavy and dark should do. My personal favourite for this kind of manga/manhwa is Pain:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHkYVERZ0F8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myhFrg18zsc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=woaUvKkMtgc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkyDdTNJwlM
Just to list a few of many suitable songs in their production.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2012, 11:42:41 pm by Krozam »

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Offline Haxton Fale

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Re: Krozam's Manga Diary
« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2012, 07:56:54 pm »
I was asked by Krozam to prepare this Manga Diary entry. Ladies and gentlemen, while my writing skills may not be as good as his, let me present Maoyuu Maou Yuusha
-Become mine, Hero!
-I refuse!

Usually, whenever the Demon Queen is confronted by the Hero, it's the climax of the story. This time, however, it is just a beginning. After his probably long and cliche struggle through demon's realm, Hero arrives in front of Demon Queen willing to take her life, but instead of fierce fight or pleading for life, he hears the above request, and declines it. They agree on a compromise - Hero will hear Demon Queen out for a half-day, and after that time he is free to do whatever he wants with her.

I'm sure there are lots of great fantasy series. Many of them have pretty dark tone, and many of them deal with wars and politics. Maoyuu however is very unique and I don't mean characters with no actual names, only their occupations. This series is probably the most realistic one, since it deals with all aspects of war and its impact. Demon Queen doesn't want to end the war because humans have to lose - she wants to end the war since it's wrong, and she'd like to do it without completely destroying her opponents, trying to find the most peaceful way instead. With that thought, she visits the human world in disguise and starts the education.

Among numerous manga adaptations of original novels, I find drawing style of Maoyuu Maou Yuusha (without any suffixes) the best of them all. Maou is definitely as cute as she should be, wihtout focusing too much on her shamelessly useless meat. Hero goes from being a rather dumb, but powerful warrior to educated (and dedicated) paladin (of sorts), and because his struggles (and battles in general) aren't the main problem of the story, they are resolved in epic way. While battles remain quick, they're not chaotic. And whenever he wears armor, he looks cool - just as Hero should. Fortunately, the main pair (clumsy in most things apart from politics and economy Demon Queen, and mostly oblivious to that stuff Hero) manages not to overshadow the rest of cast, which includes many interesting and colourful characters, such as Head Maid, Grandpa Archer, Female Knight, Winter Prince... most of them has their own set of values, and still avoid being one- or two-dimensional.

Long story short: Maoyuu Maou Yuusha in general tells about various problems and aspects of war, as well as ways of dealing with them. Not-so-frequent cute encounters between Demon Queen and Hero mostly serve as intervals between mountains of dialogues (which are also enjoyable). If I were to grade Maoyuu at this point, I'd probably give it about 4/5, because of story's steady level during the 8 translated (and loaded with text) chapters.