Went by Borders to day and indulged myself in manga.
Read issue one of "The Rule of the Land" (or rather, "Re Xue Jiang Hu" in chinese characters), yet another Korean manga based on wuxia. I dunno, I didn't really like this one much. The pacing was off and the characters rather unlikeable. The art wasn't high level and was rather predicable. The plot... I'm not sure there is a plot. Whatever background to the story wasn't developed at all, which leaves the reader rather in the dark outside of whatever shallow events are occuring right at the moment.
Also read Hellsing 2. Not much actually happened in the story outside of an obligatory fight/invasion scene. Most of it seems to be setting up some sort of conspiracy for a major arc. Still very bloody and dark. Still packed with some rather inflammatory/controversial portrayals... what with the whole Protestant England vs. Catholic Vatican, and then throw in references to Nazi Germany as hints to the upcoming major villain (organization). Alucard is still scary; he's got one darn good powerset. The "Police Girl" is still the comic relief, and she does a pretty good job at it, heh.
Most of my time, though, was spend reading "Basara", issues 1-5. I like it, alot. It's got really good characters and a pretty good plot. The art isn't exactly Clamp, and I didn't like it much at first, but it seems to have grown on me. ^_^;;
Basic plotline: Taking place in a post-apocalyptic Japan, a prophecy was made over twin siblings Sarasa & Tatara that "this is a child of destiny who will rescue us from misery and yaddayaddayadda. Everyone assumes it's talking about the boy, Tatara, so he's basically raised up for his destiny (and refreshingly, he wasn't raised up a spoiled brat because of it, and he genuinely believes/wants to fight for the welfare of the impoverished villages). Sarasa has been pretty much neglected all this time, since she's a girl.
However, the ruler of the area, the Red King (youngest of 4 sons of the despotic king of the island) has his own prophecised destiny thingy and hears about the hints of revolution going on in his lands b/c of Tatara. He decides to put an end to the rebellion by killing their figurehead and attacks the village. The second time, his soldiers succeed in killing Tatara. In the ensuing panic, Sarasa disguises herself as her brother and manages to get everyone who's still alive organized to run away. Since then, she's been carrying on rebellion in her brother's name. While she's a mediocre fighter, she excells at inspiring people to follow her (a typical anime stereotype, but this time it's written much better than the likes of, say "Fushigi Yuugi").
At first, her motivation was revenge. Later on, as she sees more of the world, she sees how the people have languished in the land and her motivations begin to change as she genuinely wants them to give them a better fate. In the meantime, the Red King's forces keep on trying to catch/kill "Tatara"... which results in a rather vicious cycle: it's because of those soldiers killing her & her friends/family that Tatara & her allies keep fighting back and antagonizing the Red King & his forces even more... etc.
Now, as an aside from this, Sarasa meets a guy named Shuri at a hot spring early on in the books one night (a unique scene notable for the fact that 1. it was not followed by an immediate malleting and 2. the guy didn't automatically get a nosebleed and go all blubbery on the sight of a nude girl). They meet a few other times and exchange words filled with double meanings that only the readers know, because the guy is no other than the Red King himself. Through these scenes and others, we learn of Shura's side of the story, and we see that he's not a bad guy, or even evil. One even entertains hopes that with some talking-to from Sasara, he might knock off some rough edges and become a good ruler.
They fall in love over the course of the 5 issues so far... that's pretty predictable. But it is unique in that the love wasn't immediate. Shura is rather blase about women; and it's Sarasa's ideas and spirit, not to mention her turning down his first advances, than draws him to her. Sarasa wasn't that interested in guys at first, especially the creep that walks in on her and hits on her, but he grew on her like fungus, especially after a few rescues and near/mistaken-death scenes in book 5. And, of course, both of them hate the alter-ego of the other, not that either of them have the slightest idea of who the other "really" is and what their real "motivations" are. It's a tragedy in the making, moreso for that their love is much better developed than a lot of other manga stories.
There are some other very memorable characters in the story. Nagi the blind teacher/healer, Ageha the entertainer/wise man and former slave, and the newly introduced Blue King, who from the hints we see in his land, is one depraved though cunning enemy to both his half-brother and possibly Sarasa...
Anyways, I highly recommend this manga series. Definitely a good epic story worth reading.