• Yuriko Nishiyama • Tokyopop (2004–ongoing) • Kodansha (Weekly Shônen Magazine, 2001–2003) • 11 volumes • Shônen, Music, Comedy, Drama • 13+ (mild language, mild violence, mild se-xual situations)
Dragon Voice is one of the few shônen manga to deal with the performing arts, and the mysterious absent parental figure/role model (a standard of boys’ manga) is the hero’s mother, not his father. Teenage Rin has looks and dance moves, but his gruff, gravelly voice (he talks in an unusual font) has dashed his dreams of becoming a singer … until he somehow ends up in the Beatmen, a five-man singing group with which his voice harmonizes. Despite the hero’s unique weakness, the plot doesn’t develop momentum and turns into one silly thing after another; for one volume the characters are forced to play the Voice Rangers in a musical sentai kids’ show, and later on they all conveniently enroll in the same high school as a rival band. As in Harlem Beat, however, Nishiyama’s execution is very solid: the dance scenes are full of bodies in motion, and the characters are entertaining, with lots of hot male eye candy. As Nishiyama acknowledges, it’s hard to express music through manga, but she does an excellent job—musical notes are visually represented like the energy blasts in a fighting manga, and the sound lyrics burst out of the page. The music references betray Nishiyama’s 1980s sensibilities: the series began in 2001, and she’s still talking about Michael Jackson and Back to the Future.
DRAGON WARS: THE TALE OF LUFIAK DUELL
Ryukihei • Studio Ironcat (2000) • 1 volume • Fantasy • Unrated/13+ (mild language, brief nudity, violence)
Lufiak the warrior, Feenie the fairy, and Valdik the dragon (or technically, the dragon-headed, sword-wielding lizard man) join together to save their fantasy world from the Dark Force and the evil dragon that rules it. The 1980s art is occasionally imaginative, but the RPG-like plot is brain-dead and the dialogue is terrible (especially when it tries to be funny). Additional material—a separate story line about a female thief who teams up with a dragon—was published in monthly comics format as simply Dragon Wars but never collected.