This week, Kate, David, & Sean take a look at new releases from Viz Media, Dark Horse, Digital Manga Publishing, and Kodansha Comics.
Dengeki Daisy, Vol. 6 | By Kyousuke Motomi | Viz Media-It was only after reading this volume that I realized that not a heck of a lot plot-relevant stuff happened in it. We’re building up to what will likely be a big climax in the next volume or two, but it’s still a buildup, and despite the removal of one minor villain and the redemption of another, there’s a sense of the author trying to gauge how long she can spin out the Daisy/hacker plotline before she’s forced to fire the guns. Still, at the time I was reading it, I didn’t notice at all, as I was completely drawn in by everything. Teru still tends to be a damsel most of the time, as this is her role in the plot, but she’s not a damsel content to be passive, as her attack on one villain shows. As for Tasuku, it’s clear he can’t move forward with Teru till he gets over his own self-loathing – and we’ve not yet bottomed out there. Addictive.– Sean Gaffney
Eden: It’s an Endless World! Vol. 13 | By Hiroki Endo | Dark Horse –In spite of the fact that the 12th volume of this series came out just under two years ago, I found it surprisingly easy to get back in the groove. For those who are unfamiliar with the book, it’s a sprawling, violent sci-fi epic about a world changed utterly by a pernicious virus, a situation worsened by surviving humanity’s relentless desire to tinker with themselves and their world to gain advantage and power. It would probably be irrelevant to provide any kind of plot summary at this stage of the game, so I’ll just say this: Endo avoids just about every pitfall that can befall this kind of action drama. The technobabble is interesting, the ultraviolence is beautifully and imaginatively rendered, and the characters benefit from thoughtful and often surprising motivations. Even the sex scenes don’t feel quite as gratuitous as they could. It’s good stuff. Painfully slow to arrive, but always welcome. – David Welsh
Grand Guignol Orchestra, Vol. 4 | By Kaori Yuki | Viz Media –There’s a lot to like about this series, which I can’t always say with Yuki’s work. She really sells her blend of gothic violence and simmering emotional dysfunction. Unfortunately, it all seems a bit compressed. The overarching plot of Grand Guignol Orchestra – a troupe of traveling musicians battles an encroaching horde of doll-like zombies and tries to solve the various mysteries behind them – could have stretched out for a good long while, but Yuki seemed to barely begin scratching the surface of that premise before she moved into operatic endgame mode. To be honest, it seems like she’s working for an audience that can carry memory of the specific resonances of her style and fill in the narrative blanks. As a result, the most promisingly turgid moments here aren’t as persuasive as they could be. They’re all right, but they could be better if the series had taken the time to fully realize them. – David Welsh
Itazura Na Kiss, Vol. 6 | By Kaoru Tada | Digital Manga Publishing –Given that both the cover and blurb spoil the first half of the volume, I feel it’s safe to say that Kotoko and Naoki finally get together in this 6th omnibus and are married. Pleasingly, the manga doesn’t end there, but continues on with their married life. Unfortunately, given the story still tends to rely on “Kotoko panics and misses the point” and “Naoki doesn’t say what he’s thinking”, this can get even more frustrating. Naoki especially is hard – I’ve gone on about him before, but he really seems to want a wife who can literally read his mind, and doesn’t get how off-putting he can be. And Kotoko is still a dimwit, but her lovableness varies from moment to moment. Still, the sweet and joyous moments in this manga ARE really good, made all the better by the misunderstandings we waded through to get there.– Sean Gaffney
Kingyo Used Books, Vol. 4 | By Seimu Yoshizaki | Viz Media – Any volume of Kingyo Used Books that features manga by Go Nagai, Rumiko Takahashi, and Moto Hagio can’t be all bad; how could any self-respecting otaku dislike a story whose protagonists bond over their mutual affection for Ranma 1/2, or whose bespectacled hero is a connoisseur of classic shojo? The problem with Kingyo Used Books, however, is that even stories such as the aforementioned “A Common Language” or “Beautiful People” never deviate from the basic pattern established in the very first volume: characters stumble into Kingyo, reveal that they’re struggling with a difficult issue, then discover a manga that helps them feel better. The stories are so pat they often feel more like an Afterschool Special than a thoughtful reflection on the power of reading to transform our lives, and the shallow nature of the characters’ epiphanies — beauty is only skin deep, don’t judge a book by its cover — only emphasizes the series’ missed potential. – Katherine Dacey
One Piece, Vol. 58 | By Eiichiro Oda | Viz Media –With my long and turbulent history as a fan of soap operas, I certainly recognize what Oda is doing here. He’s creating a necessary sequence of events that will pay off later, even if that sequence isn’t necessarily what his audience has come to expect or prefer. The thing is, I only like it marginally better in One Piece than I would have on, say, All My Children. (This is because Oda, unlike a Megan McTavish, isn’t a manipulative hack.) So, while experience has taught me that I will eventually be sobbing and cheering at the edifice Oda builds from this foundation, I’m finding myself increasingly impatient with the absence of Oda’s lovingly crafted ensemble and with the relentless bombast of this seemingly never-ending battle. It’s actually pretty good stuff, but it’s wearing out its welcome, and I’m ready to get back to the regular delivery of great stuff. – David Welsh
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Vol. 2 | By Kenji Kuroda and Kazuo Maekawa | Kodansha Comics –First off, yes, the cover does look awful, as some of my colleagues mentioned before. It totally screams “tie-in fodder”. Which, to be fair, this is. That said, it’s still succeeding at trying to appeal to its demographic of those who have played the games but want more. The second volume brings Edgeworth into the story, and the manga is better for it – he’s dead on, particularly in how he tries to win his case while at the same time giving Phoenix the little hints he needs to turn everything around. The second half of the manga is a complete story, revolving around the murder of a costumed actor at an amusement park while doing a sentai show. The cases are much less convoluted than the games, by design – there’s just no time to go over everything – but even so, the resolution seems perfectly in keeping with the series. Perhaps we could get Franziska in Vol. 3? Please?– Sean Gaffney