This week, Kate, MJ, David, Sean, & Michelle take a look at recent releases from Digital Manga Publishing, Yen Press, Kodansha Comics, Viz Media, and Vertical, Inc.
Acting on Impulse | By Natsue Ogoshi, Original Text by Vicki Lewis | Digital Manga Publishing – Opposites attract in this silly but charming romance about a farm girl from Virtue, KS who falls for a reformed playboy from Manhattan’s Upper West Side. When Trudy takes a job in New York City, her friends Meg and Peter appoint Linc to be her “bodyguard” and romance coach. Trudy wants to become a Sex-in-the-City sophisticate, having wild flings and meeting exotic men, while Linc wants to settle down. Their initial compromise — friends with benefits — proves more difficult than either anticipated, as each begins developing strong feelings for the other. (Didn’t they see When Harry Met Sally?!) I’m not giving away much by revealing that Acting on Impulse ends at the altar, but the story earns points for snappy dialogue and a heroine who’s hell-bent on preserving her independence, even if it means turning down a marriage proposal. -Katherine Dacey
Bakuman, Vol. 7 | By Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata | Viz Media – Things continue to go wrong for our heroes in this volume as their first series is canceled, and this may be the best thing that’s ever happened to Bakuman. Most of this volume focuses on the team’s power struggle with their editor, whose opinion about what direction the boys should pursue with their next series differs drastically from their own. This is one of the most interesting looks into the editorial process we’ve been shown thus far, ultimately coming to a conclusion I did not anticipate. Less interesting are Takagi’s potential girl issues, as he begins a professional but intense telephone relationship with female writer Aoki, but even this has its moments. The undeniable truth about Bakuman, is that it continues to be fascinating regardless of its shortcomings. Honestly, I can’t put it down. Still recommended.– MJ
Bamboo Blade, Vol. 10 | By Masahiro Totsuka and Aguri Igarashi | Yen Press – In the last volume, we spent most of the time on the awesome kendo battles, showing how much our team of determined girls has grown over the course of the series. Now we have to set up the next plot arc, featuring Tama matching up against her new rival. That is, if the opposing side can get the new rival onto the show. This volume may be low on kendo action (though there are some nice bouts in flashback), but it reminds you how funny this series can be when it’s on a roll. Chapter 82 and 85 are simply amazing, with Osaka-style overreaction to everything and a manga-within-a-manga parody that hits all the cliched genre conventions. We’re now about 3/4 through the series, and it’s good to see it can still make me laugh like this.-Sean Gaffney
Bloody Monday, Vol. 1 | By Ryou Ryumon and Kouji Megumi | Kodansha Comics – As a story, there’s nothing really novel about Bloody Monday, but the execution is so solid that I’m not bothered. A high-school computer hacker, Fujimaru Takagi, divides his time between the newspaper club and helping is secret-agent father decode sensitive computer files. Takagi, the senior, ends up on the wrong side of a conspiracy, leaving Fujimaru to try and clear his dad’s name, protect his sickly sister, and defend Japan against a mysterious disaster involving a virus of the organic kind. Ryumon piles on the plot twists but manages to keep things both orderly and suspenseful. Megumi’s art is very much in the crisp, Takeshi Obata vein, which always suits material of this nature. The visual fan service is certainly in evidence, but it’s pretty benign and hardly surprising considering that this is a story created for high-school boys that stars high-school boys. Overall, Bloody Monday is more than solid enough on all fronts to make me want to know what happens next. – David Welsh
Codename: Sailor V, Vol. 1 | By Naoko Takeuchi | Kodansha Comics –The thing I like best about this precursor to Sailor Moon is the fun its heroine has being a “champion of justice.” Lots of contemporary super-girls tend to mope over the necessity for secrecy and the burdensome nature of heroic duty, but Minako Aino seems to be having a ball. And why shouldn’t she? She gets to be glamorous, powerful, and popular, all while saving the day. Takeuchi also manages to tweak a lot of fan-culture mainstays along the way, from teen idols to spin-off merchandise to hunky juvenile delinquents. On the down side, the stories here tend to get a little repetitive, and it would be nice if Takeuchi relied a little less on the fact that Minako is kind of a dingbat to generate comedy. It’s fun to watch Sailor V kick ass and look fabulous doing it, but it would be more satisfying if she seemed to take more genuine pride in her work. – David Welsh
Kekkaishi, Vols. 7-9 (omnibus edition) | By Yellow Tanabe | Viz Media – There’s more classic shonen situations in these three volumes of Kekkaishi. We see the tragic backstory of Gen, whose life before joining the Shadow Organization is shown to be pretty much awful. A nasty villain is shown treating his fellow villainous colleagues as pawns, and sacrificing them just because he’s in a bad mood. A new teacher arrives to beat some sense into our heroes, and she turns out to be a hot dark-skinned girl (shades of Bleach). But it’s a sign of Yellow Tanabe’s craft that these cliches don’t feel worn, and I’m still enjoying the byplay between everyone as more of the plot is uncovered. Yoshimori gets less to do here, but this is made up for with a great sequence involving Tokine, who shows why she iss ruthless and not to be underestimated. A very good series, which I will now sadly have to get single volumes of.-Sean Gaffney
A Liar in Love | By Kiyo Ueda | Published by Digital Manga Publishing – On the surface, A Liar in Love looks like generic BL, featuring as it does a handsome playboy named Hiroki who makes a game out of seducing his brother’s timid and kind coworker, Yasuyuki. Actually, though, it’s pretty great, as Hiroki quickly finds himself out of his depth in this new relationship. It’s often difficult to sympathize with him, as he tends to treat Yasuyuki shabbily when confronted with his own shortcomings, but his journey from an inveterate player clinging to the notion that it’s all just a game to a person who can actually be genuine about his feelings is believable and compelling. Yasuyuki’s no slouch, either, especially when he’s able to stand his ground against Hiroki when the latter is at his most callous. With true-to-life characters in a realistic and difficult situation and lovely, expressive art, A Liar in Love is a gem. Highly recommended. – Michelle Smith
Psyren, Vol. 1 | By Toshiaki Iwashiro | Viz Media – Psyren is pretty much equal parts Gantz, The Drifting Classroom, and The Hunger Games, though it lacks the specific urgency of any of those entertainments. A dumb-but-decent, fight-happy boy named Ageha winds up sucked into a game-conspiracy where survival means victory and failure equals death in a dessicated, dystopian landscape. Ageha has a slight edge over his fellow competitors in the form of his desire to protect a classmate, Sakurako, who seems to have been suffering under the game’s random rules for some time. Sakurako, with her combination of ferocity and fragility, is the most interesting thing Psyren has to offer, and the prospect of getting to know her better is the most compelling reason to keep up with the series. Other than that, it’s competent enough as mayhem-survival drama goes. With so much really good survival-mayhem drama at your disposal, Psyren ends up feeling kind of inessential. Recommended for readers who like their body counts high and can withstand a lot of déjà vu. – David Welsh
Twin Spica, Vol. 9 | By Kou Yaginuma | Vertical – This volume of Twin Spica is not necessarily filled with warmth and good cheer, and certainly has many sad and wistful moments, but did not seem quite as melancholy as Volume 8 was. Our cast is now in its third year, and things get tougher as you would expect, but the praise is also coming more easily, even from their hardest instructors. Moreover, even as he’s seen less and less, Mr. Lion’s storyline continues to fascinate me. As Asumi grows older and more confident, and the actual reasons behind the fatal crash begin to slowly be revealed, we see him start to wonder if it’s finally time for him to move on. The fact that this is done with minimal dialogue is another tribute to the craft we see exhibited here. There may be trouble on the horizon for Marika, though, which is a shame as we also see her open up a bit more here. A nice peaceful ride, with lots of scenery. -Sean Gaffney
Noura saysOctober 3, 2011 at 7:03 am
I love BAKUMAN. I admit that I didn’t enjoy the first two volumes much but volume 3 was the beginning for me. I was hooked since reading that volume and I still am. Love the characters, though the girls do annoy me a bit. I like how more new characters are introduced in each volume. Can’t wait for more.
Enjoyed the first book of Codename: Sailor V. I also liked Minako much more than Usagi (Sailor Moon). I didn’t find her to be annoying as Usagi is.
Melinda Beasi saysOctober 3, 2011 at 12:44 pm
Heh, funny, one of the female characters (Miyoshi) is one of maybe two characters in all of Bakuman that I really, unreservedly like. I think most of the guys are pretty awful, even when they are interesting (though I do love Eiji Nizuma).
Then again, I didn’t find Usagi annoying either, so perhaps we’re just not quite on the same page with female characters. :D
wandering-dreamer saysOctober 3, 2011 at 9:21 am
Oh I remember reading Psyren, took a while for me to get into it (think it wasn’t until the second arc) and the ending had to be really rushed so it wasn’t canceled but I thought it was a pretty good shonen series in the end.
Travis saysOctober 3, 2011 at 11:50 pm
I hope you decide to continue with Psyren. It does start a little slow, but so do most manga (especially Jump series, IME), and it gets really, really awesome.
Melinda Beasi saysOctober 4, 2011 at 7:26 am
Oh, good to know, good to know. (Yes, I’m reading Psyren, too.)
Yerocha saysOctober 10, 2011 at 3:11 am
Kekkaishi always felt different from most other shonen to me. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s just more subdued and formal than most others, and I really like the approach it takes. Can’t wait for the next omnibus.
I’ve been looking to get into Psyren, but I was never into the whole Gantz style. I’m not entirely sure how similar the two are in overall feel, but I think I’d have to find that out before I start it up.
Will pick up the Bamboo Blade manga once I finish the anime. Should be good.