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Natsume, Kurozakuro, Panda, Prince

With the addition of new authors to the Manga Bookshelf family of blogs, it seemed like the right time to refresh this weekly feature with more diversity of opinion. To that end, both Kate and David will now be joining in offer up their weekly Picks. And as a bonus, we have a Pick from Soliloquy in Blue‘s Michelle Smith. So take your pick of the Picks below or stretch your pocketbook and pick up all four!

From Melinda: There isn’t a lot of excitement to be found for me in this week’s batch of incoming manga, though there are a couple of bright spots. A new volume of Sand Chronicles is always welcome, of course, but my eye is especially drawn to volume five of Natsume’s Book of Friends, one of my favorite new shoujo series last year. I got a bit bogged down with it during volume three, but here’s a snippet from my thoughts on volume four: “The volume begins on a strong note, by introducing a troubled yokai who ends up inhabiting the body of a snow bunny (not the kind found on ski slopes, but in children’s back yards) in order to try to reunite with his one-time companion who had been driven to the dark side by the cruelty of humanity. While that concept sounds at once unbearably cutesy and melodramatic, its execution is anything but. It’s subtle and moving, and in that moment, the series won me back completely.”

The emotional content of this series has really refined itself beautifully over the course of its run so far, and I’m really looking forward to picking up the this week’s volume.

From David: I missed the first volume of this series, and I have no idea if it’s particularly good or not, but I was very struck by the style of the covers of Kurozakuro (Viz), written and illustrated by Yoshinori Natsume. I tend not to be a big shounen fan, but I’ve done pretty well with the titles in Viz’s Shonen Sunday imprint. This one is about a boy who finds that he’s turning into an ogre and wants to eat people, which isn’t your standard young-man-with-a-dream problem. The preview on the Shonen Sunday site looks kind of promising, particularly in terms of the style of the illustrations.

From Kate: I’m going to put on my Good Comics for Kids hat and champion Panda Man and the Treasure Hunt, the second installment of a new graphic novel/activity book/chapter book series from VIZ Kids. The first volume of Panda Man was perfect for seven- or eight-year-olds: it had stylish artwork, plenty of slapstick, and enough bathroom humor to satisfy the most discerning fart joke connoisseur. Oh, and mazes, connect-the-dot exercises, and drawing tips, making it a great choice for keeping kids busy on a car ride or a plane trip. The second volume finds Panda Man going mano-a-mano with pirates in search of treasure. I’m guessing the plot may be a little disjointed — the first volume was more a collection of gags than a story — but I can’t imagine it will be anything less than entertaining. Even an adult can appreciate a hero whose primary weapons are smelly feet and an overactive GI tract; as someone who rode the NYC subway for years, I can attest to the awesome, crippling power of stinky toes!

From Michelle: For me, the automatic purchase this week is volume 40 of Takeshi Konomi’s The Prince of Tennis. I recently completed a marathon read to get current on the series, and though many ridiculous elements offer themselves up as reasons for mockery—chief among them Konomi’s decision to depict the pinnacle of tennis achievement with glowing auras and sparkles (both visible to spectators)—I would never for a moment dream of giving up on it before its completion, even though the product description warns me to expect “a wicked case of amnesia” in this latest volume. That’s my Prince of Tennis: incredibly silly and yet so irresistible.

So, readers, what’s your Pick this week?

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