manga bookshelf

Bookshelf Briefs 6/6/11

This week, Melinda, Kate, David, & Michelle take a look at a variety of manga from Viz Media, Vertical Inc., Digital Manga Publishing, and Yen Press.



Bakuman, Vol. 5 | By Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata | Viz Media – The theme for this volume may as well be “Everyone makes progress toward making their dreams come true!” Not that everything is smooth sailing. Mashiro and Takagi finally have a series in Shonen Jump, but along with that comes new editor, Miura, who is rather inexperienced. It takes him some time to gain the confidence to steer the boys in a direction that will keep their series popular with readers. Meanwhile, other friends and rivals aim for the same goal and even Miho experiences a rejuvenation in her dedication to become a voice actress. It’s a thoroughly shounen setup, which is only fitting for a story about making shounen manga. I wish we actually got to see some of this manga they’re creating, though! Maybe in due time… -Michelle Smith

Black Bird, Vol. 8 | By Kanoko Sakurakoji | Viz Media – If there’s one thing that can be said for Kanoko Sakurakoji’s Black Bird, it’s that it stays unflinchingly on message, volume after volume. “Girls, always obey what the menfolk tell you,” it says over and over, in a thousand different ways. “They’re smarter and stronger than you are, so they always know what’s best.” That’s the overwhelming message of this series, though there’s an equally consistent side note attached, “Be grateful and understanding when your man punishes you for your mistakes. After all, it’s for your own good.” Volume eight personifies these messages without fail, as always, with the added bonus of the much-anticipated consummation of Misao and Kyo’s sexual relationship, which is of course preceded by extra gratitude, humility, and expressions of flushed desperation from our heroine. Yay? -Melinda Beasi

Bleach, Vol. 35 | By Tite Kubo | Viz Media – Despite its status as a hit battle manga, for a reader like me, the best of Bleach exists between battles, when Tite Kubo is able to utilize his (not insignificant) talent for writing quirky, compelling characters. Unfortunately Kubo tends to excess in this area, creating a never-ending stream of brand new characters, leaving less room and page time for those we already love. With that in mind, volume 35 reveals both the best and worst of Kubo’s habits, providing some genuinely satisfying moments with some of our favorite characters while leading us into another series of battles with an array of new foes. If I could deliver one message to Kubo, it would be that when it comes to supporting characters, sometimes less is more. 35 stacks up in the “win” column, but the future looks far less bright. – Melinda Beasi

Blue Exorcist, Vol. 2 | By Kazue Kato | Viz Media – In discussion of this series’ first volume, I said, ” I’d like to see more … with Rin actually learning the craft under Yukio’s tutelage, because watching the two of them together is the most compelling aspect of the story so far.” The good news here is that we do see more of this, and it indeed remains the series’ greatest strength. The less good news is that the bulk of this volume is spent introducing the class’ other students, including hotheaded Suguro and by-the-book tsundere Izumo. Though there’s obviously a self-formed family of young exorcists being nurtured here, it’s a shame to have so much of the volume’s focus stolen away by it, when we’ve only just begun with the series’ two main characters. Still, this remains the most compelling new shounen series to travel westward this year. I look forward to seeing where it goes from here. – Melinda Beasi

A Bride’s Story, Vol. 1 | By Kaoru Mori | Yen Press – This is one of those books where I’m convinced I could pass off random page scans as a review, possibly followed up with, “See? See?!” I can’t quite decide if it’s more gorgeous than Mori’s Emma (CMX), but I can say without question that it’s one of the loveliest manga you’re likely to find in current release. It’s also as quietly moving and packed with absorbing details as Emma was, so you really can’t lose. In this tale set in central Asia in the 19th century, a 20-year-old woman enters into an arranged marriage with a 12-year-old boy. We see quietly forceful Amir adapt from her nomadic lifestyle to the more settled state of affairs with her young bridegroom. There’s the whispered promise of an actual plot, but I could read dozens of volumes of nothing but Mori’s meticulously researched, breathtakingly drawn slice of life. Really, what more do you need? -David Welsh

Chi’s Sweet Home, Vol. 6 | By Konami Kanata | Vertical, Inc. – After five volumes of cute kitten antics — including Chi’s first visit to the vet, Chi’s first bath, and Chi’s first excursion beyond the safe confines of home — I thought Kanata Konami would have run out of material. I’m pleased to report that volume six of Chi’s Sweet Home is just as appealing and fresh as the previous installments, offering plenty of awwww-inducing moments as well as some genuinely funny scenes. (Don’t miss the chapter in which Chi stalks a parakeet; Chi’s reaction to the parakeet is priceless.) Konami continues to expand the scope of the story to include more animals, more people, and more settings, neatly mimicking Chi’s growing awareness of her surroundings while preventing the story from becoming too cutely claustrophobic. As in previous volumes, the illustrations are simple but effective, capturing Chi’s surprise and delight in discovering new things: vacuum cleaners, Kleenex, birthday cake. Recommended. -Katherine Dacey

Chi’s Sweet Home, Vol. 6 | By Konami Kanata | Vertical, Inc. – Whenever a new volume of Chi’s Sweet Home comes into my possession it automatically vaults to the top of the to-read pile. The first five volumes all offered colorful, cute, and (mostly) cheerful stores about Chi, an adorable tabby kitten, and the sixth is no exception. Kanata has a knack for depicting scenarios familiar to any cat owner, like massacred houseplants and the species-wide fascination with climbing into boxes, while imagining what the world must look like to a cat. Chi’s nocturnal journey to the local park is a particular standout. My one complaint is that Chi’s owners, the Yamadas, continually do frustrating things like leave cakes unattended and store breakable objects at the top of a flight of stairs, then proceed to freak out when Chi messes with them. You’ve got a cat now, folks. You either put things away or get used to the gnaw marks. -Michelle Smith

Itsuwaribito, Vol. 2 | By Yuuki Iinuma | Viz Media – In this volume, Utsuho proves himself trustworthy to the implausibly youthful Dr. Yakuma by rescuing him from the clutches of a bizarre fellow whom I shall christen “Freaky Dude.” Not only that, he correctly deduces the cause of Freaky Dude’s killing spree and helps him to see the error of his ways. The display convinces Yakuma to invite Utsuho on a journey to Nadeshiko Island, where he suspects a treasure of life-extending medicine awaits. It also happens to be the location of many exiled criminals. I’m still not enraptured by Itsuwaribito, but I found this volume a lot more entertaining than the first. For reasons I cannot quite pinpoint, it reminds me of Black Cat, in a simple shounen adventure kind of way. Plus, there’s an adorable twitchy-eared talking tanuki! I’ll definitely be checking out volume three. -Michelle Smith

Twin Spica, Vol. 7 | By Kou Yaginuma | Vertical, Inc. – In the seventh volume of Twin Spica, Kou Yaginuma explores Marika’s childhood, as well as Marika’s struggle to create her own destiny, rather than the one for which she was created. Though Marika’s story is emotionally compelling, Yaginuma strains too hard to show us that Marika, Asumi, and Fuchuya have a shared history; there’s a tidiness to the connection that feels a little false, as if the characters’ shared memory of the Lion disaster wasn’t grounds enough for bonding. The volume’s final chapters are more dramatically persuasive, giving the three female leads a chance to demonstrate just how smart, resourceful, and tough they can be under duress. N.B. Beginning with volume seven, Vertical will be releasing Twin Spica in a longer omnibus format of 300-400 pages (roughly 1.5 volumes). -Katherine Dacey

Your Story I’ve Known | By Tsuta Suzuki | Juné Manga – It’s rare that I find the sex scenes in a boys’-love title to be the most interesting, but that’s definitely the case in the title story of this book. Suzuki laces the physically intimate moments with intriguing, revealing observations. Unfortunately, those kinds of notes are largely absent in the rest of this tale of a gangster who takes up with the son of one of his ex-girlfriends. It’s drawn well, but the characters and their dynamic aren’t very engaging. The back-up stories compensate for the centerpiece, though. One’s about a young man dealing with his lover’s irritating reticence. Another is a love story between a kid and a goofy, centuries-old ghost. The last describes the awkward early courtship between two salarymen. Each has a distinct, quirky charm, making the book a worthwhile investment overall. -David Welsh

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  1. While I don’t consider BLACK BIRD a favorite, it is kinda addicting for some reason. I guess it is more of a guilty pleasure. The love scene in volume 8 was definitely satisfying but I still don’t like Misao much. She is an annoying heroine and I find the supporting characters to be much more interesting. I am actually more interested in them than the main couple.

    Bakuman is something I enjoy more with each volume. The first two volumes were a bit boring but I started to enjoy the series with volume 3 and now I am totally loving it. I am glad I decided to stick to it. I still find the girls in this series to be annoying and unlikable, though.

    I wasn’t able to find the first book of Kaoru Mori’s A Bride Story but I will be getting it soon. It is one book I really want to read. The fact that the female lead is much older than the male makes the story even more interesting.

  2. I just started reading Black Bird and I can see where the story would head in that direction. I’ve been meaning to pick up Chi’s Sweet story! I saw the anime and skimmed through one of the books at the local bookstore the other day. I really need to catch up on several series.

  3. the more reviews I read of BLack Bird the happier I am that I dropped it after three volumes the whole expernce left me feeling “impure”


  1. […] Kate Dacey, Michelle Smith, and David Welsh check out a stack of new releases in their latest Bookshelf Briefs at Manga Bookshelf. Carlo Santos critiques more new releases in his latest Right Turn Only!! column […]

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