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Bookshelf Briefs 7/24/11

This week, Michelle, Melinda, Kate, & Sean check out recent releases from Kodansha Comics, Viz Media, Seven Seas, & Vertical, Inc.

Dengeki Daisy Vol. 5 | By Kyousuke Motomi | Published by Viz –I cannot help but compare the cover of this volume of Dengeki Daisy to those of Black Bird, which runs in the same magazine in Japan. Black Bird’s covers always reminded me of sexual assault, with inappropriately placed blood and a terrified heroine. Dengeki Daisy also features a somewhat bloody hero clutching his heroine, but the image here is meant to invoke protection, and she isn’t frightened of him at all. I find that much better. As for the story itself, the plot continues to get more and more dangerous, as Tasuku is even briefly hospitalized. The enemy is trying to confront Teru psychologically, and it’s to her credit that she’s keeping it together as much as she is. Meanwhile, she and Tasuku are still hiding things from each other about her knowledge of Daisy, and are finding it increasingly hard to deal with their burgeoning feelings. Tense, gripping stuff, this series is a real page-turner.– Sean Gaffney

Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit, Vol. 7 | By Motoro Mase | Viz Media – Every volume of Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit follows the same template: Motoro Mase introduces the victim, then shows us how he or she copes with the news of his impending death. Though a few victims have violently resisted their fates, almost all the stories have an uplifting ending in which the victim reaches out to an estranged relative, apologizes to a friend for callous behavior, or gives a final performance. I think these stories are meant to underscore how unjust the National Welfare Act really is, but the cumulative effect induces numbness, not outrage. Death messenger Fujimoto’s own journey to conscientious objection is unfolding at such a slow pace that it’s hard to know if he’ll ever have the courage to resist his charge. And with no one actively fighting the government, Ikigami is rapidly devolving into an unpleasant hybrid of Afterschool Special and snuff film. In a word: grim. -Katherine Dacey>

RIN-NE, Vol. 6 | By Rumiko Takahashi | Published by VIZ Media – Even though RIN-NE is now up to its sixth volume, nothing has really changed much. (Sort of) shinigami Rinne is still stingy and still besotted by perpetually calm classmate Sakura Mamiya, who assists him in aiding spirits to pass on. The addition of a female shinigami with the hots for Rinne (Ageha) and the continued presence of incompetent exorcist Jumonji (with the hots for Sakura) do little except fuel occasional episodic diversions, such as when Jumonji is tricked into cursing Rinne. Storylines are usually wrapped up within three or four chapters, with few lasting repercussions aside from a slowly growing cast of recurring characters. Speaking of which, I am seriously weary of Sabato, Rinne’s irresponsible dad, whose deceitful ways just bring more misfortune upon our hero. It’s probably expecting too much to hope for his comeuppance to happen any time soon, alas. – Michelle Smith

Shugo Chara!, Vol. 11 | By Peach-Pit | Published by Kodansha Comics – Three of Amu’s Guardian Characters have disappeared and, led by the fourth in an effort to find them, she embarks upon a journey along the wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey (not to mention sparkly) “road of stars,” catching glimpses of various characters with whom she interacted over the course of the series—friend and foe alike—who are all now working hard and having fun. What would be a warm and fuzzy conclusion is marred slightly by the fact that the mystery of the Embryo is never explained and one of Amu’s friends never divulges an important secret, but maybe these things will be rectified in the final volume, which “explores the side stories of the other characters.” My advice is to try not to think too hard about the dangling plot threads and just enjoy the good-hearted vibe of this delightful magical girl series. – Michelle Smith

Toradora! Vol. 2 | By Yuyuko Takemiya and Zekkyo | Published by Seven Seas –Memo to the manga artist for Suzumiya Haruhi: take a few lessons from Toradora’s adaptation. The series finishes up Vol. 1 of the light novels here and starts Vol. 2, and manages to keep the romantic comedy aspects going without it ever becoming tiresome. Taiga can be incredibly overbearing, but we see a lot more of her softer side than most manga tsunderes, and her facial expressions make this worth the purchase price alone. The artist knows when to do exaggeration and when to keep it real, fortunately. As for the plot, well, after the worst love confession I’ve seen in a long time, Taiga and Ryuuji seem to be back to Square One. But they’re not giving up, not even as a new girl arrives on the scene to make everything much worse. A fun, breezy read for those who like comedic romance hijinks and don’t mind tsunderes.– Sean Gaffney

Twin Spica, Vol. 8 | Kou Yaginuma | Vertical, Inc. – I often worry that I don’t have enough new to say about continuing volumes of Twin Spica, not because there is little worth noting, but because it so faithfully maintains its high quality over the course of its run that it’s hard to keep topping my own praise. The truth is, no matter how much I’ve raved about any particular volume, each new installment renews those feelings ten-fold, as mangaka Kou Yaginuma continues to dig deeper into the minds and hearts of his young student astronauts. This volume is largely about partings (or the prospect thereof) and left me teary at several points, while also steadily building up my anticipation and imagination as I ponder what’s in store for its characters, personally and professionally. Yaginuma’s nostalgia-tinted artwork is especially effective in this volume, and I’m constantly surprised by how expressive it is, despite its simple aesthetic. Still recommended. – Melinda Beasi

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