Just a few quick links today to point out a few short reviews of mine over at Manga Recon this week. First of all, I checked out volume eight of Nora: The Last Chronicle of Devildom for a bonus edition of Manga Minis on Tuesday. With the huge advancements in character development made over the last two volumes, this volume pales a bit in comparison, but it’s still a solid end to the Fall arc, making way for the possibility of something greater than what the series has offered up to this point. If Nora and Kazuma really can change their fate, that will be an exciting goal to pursue and will hopefully keep the series on the upward track it discovered a few volumes back.
I came in to Nora a bit late as a reader (something that is suddenly very much related to a recent Twitter conversation on the question of whether or not individual volumes of manga can/should be able to bring a new reader into a series at any point) and one thing I must give the series credit for is just how easy that was to do. The story’s characters are always exactly themselves–no more, no less–which not only makes them unusually hospitable to newcomers, but also makes it all the more thrilling to watch them grow. I look forward to seeing more of that as the series continues.
Also, in today’s installment of On The Shojo Beat, I review the latest volumes in two series, the first being volume nineteen of NANA, a long-time favorite of mine as you all surely know. This was a rough volume for me emotionally, thanks to my strong identification with a particular character and the serious pain she’s got waiting on deck for her right now. I’m struggling to avoid spoilers here (I even tried a bit in the review itself, though it was pretty rough) so suffice it to say, “ouch.” There’s a strong sense of impending doom for everyone in the series at this point, one way or another, but Yazawa always avoids that hopeless soap-opera rut in which it is obvious at all times that nothing good can ever really happen for anyone. Along with the sense of impending doom is a small voice suggesting that perhaps, after everything has exploded and the dust has finally cleared, it might actually be a better world for the survivors of this little universe. The story may be dramatic and filled with tragic misfortune, but its characters are ultimately in charge of their own destinies and there is never a complete lack of hope for any of them.
Lastly, I review volume three of Rasetsu. I was a bit harsh on this volume, I’ll admit, but I really feel strongly that if it is going to survive on its own, independent of the series it spun off from, it’s going to need to cut the cord–the sooner the better, as far as I’m concerned. Though Yako is certainly doomed to carry around sadness over the loss of his first love for quite some time, it’s more important to develop the story’s new characters than it is to come back to that issue over and over. It can’t be allowed to drop, of course, but there are much more subtle ways of handing it than what we see in this volume. I have some level of fondness for this series so far, so I’m really rooting for it to come into its own. Hopefully we’ll see that happen over the next few volumes!
So, check out these reviews and more over at PCS’s Manga Recon!
Sarah saysNovember 19, 2009 at 5:11 pm
I enjoyed your review of Nana! I’ll avoid spoilers in the comments here, but I wanted to mention how much the drawing of Shin has affected me in the past few volumes-this one especially. When I first started reading Yazawa, her art threw me off a bit, being so different from shojo that I was used to. And I think she’s a fantastic artist now, but often the story is so compelling that I don’t notice the art as much as I should.
With Shin it’s different. Yazawa is incredible with facial expression, but there’s something about the way she draws Shin in this volume that breaks my heart every time I look at him. And I remember that originally when I picked up the series, I liked his character design the least (when he spikes his hair he looks a little too freaky to me). It’s amazing how much emotion just shines through him now.
I was wondering if there’ll be a Nana project this month? I really enjoy reading it, even if there’s not much I can add so far (the series really picked up for me after volume ten).
Thanks for the great review!
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 19, 2009 at 8:19 pm
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about the way Shin is drawn! I was quite moved, reading your comment.
Also, I checked in with my cohorts, looks like the next NANA project will probably be at the beginning of December. I think we’re finding that every other month works better than every month with our various schedules.
Thank you for your thoughtful comment!
Travis saysNovember 19, 2009 at 8:13 pm
I saw the convo on Twitter and have to say I agree with the person who said it’s odd/useless to review individual volumes if the reviewer hasn’t read the rest of the series. (Honestly, I find individual volume reviews strange even if the reviewer has been following the series.)
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 19, 2009 at 8:17 pm
Actually, it’s not odd at all, but actually very common. I don’t know a single reviewer who hasn’t been asked to review a mid-series volume if a series they haven’t read. We do it all the time.
Travis saysNovember 19, 2009 at 10:27 pm
Er, the fact that it’s common doesn’t mean it’s not an odd thing to do. Odd = strange, not odd = uncommon. I find it very strange that people would review stuff mid-series when they haven’t read the previous volumes. I can’t even imagine why that became a common convention.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 19, 2009 at 10:52 pm
We review what we are sent to review. It’s that simple. Sure, here in my own blog I have some choice over what I review. I can’t possibly review all the books publishers send me, but I try to review as many as I can and occasionally that means reviewing a new volume in a series I haven’t read. This happens more often when writing for other sites, however. In that case, my editor sends me books to review and I review them. I often am given choices there, too, but everyone has to suck it up and deal sometimes. Mid-series reviews like that are difficult, but not impossible, and most series are surprisingly easy to pick up in the middle. I even have series that have become favorites that started out as random review copies like that. Publishers want new volumes reviewed so that people will hear about them, so they send them out. Reviewers do their best to give each volume a fair shot. The best series are written compellingly and deftly enough to draw a reader in, even in the middle. For plot and character details, there is plenty of information available online to help a reader catch up. Readers slap down a new wad of cash for every new volume that comes out. Whether I’ve had the luxury of reading the previous volumes or not, as a reviewer, I earnestly try my best to let them know what they are getting. As I said on Twitter, I’m reviewing the volume, not the series. Good volumes stand on their own.