This week, MJ, David, Kate, Michelle, and Sean take a look at Yen Press, Viz Media, Kodansha Comics, East Press, and Digital Manga Publishing.
13th Boy, Vol. 9 | By SangEun Lee | Yen Press – I know they say “you can’t always get what you want” and all that, but what I’ve learned from SangEun Lee’s 13th Boy, is that sometimes you really can and it’s freaking fantastic. After eight terrific volumes, 13th Boy is giving me exactly what I’ve most wished for, and even if it’s a temporary situation (which I suspect it is), I can’t deny that I’m walking on air. Fortunately, this bit of wish-fulfillment is written with the same humor and charm as everything else in this series, so it isn’t only what we want, but also just what the narrative needs. Isn’t it nice when these things work out? 13th Boy may not be the flashiest series in Yen’s current lineup, but it’s certainly one of the best. Still recommended. – MJ
Cross Game, Vol. 5 | By Mitsuru Adachi | Viz Media – Adachi introduces a surprisingly contrived plot twist in this generally grounded series, and I’m not quite sure what I think of it. A new character moves into the neighborhood, and she causes a number of ripples in the regular cast, though she has no idea she’s doing it. Her impact is the result of something that’s entirely beyond her control, which is unlike what I’ve come to expect from the very character-driven Cross Game. Adachi’s enormous talent makes the ripples much more moving than they might be otherwise, and he seems to be building up the new character as an individual rather than as just a catalyst. Still, I don’t really know what to make of Adachi’s decision to introduce her in the first place. It seems like a narrative shortcut or a stunt, and, no matter how well executed it might be, I feel like the technique is almost a little bit beneath Adachi. – David Welsh
Dawn of the Arcana, Vol. 1 | By Rei Toma | Viz Media -The notion of a feisty young woman who must choose between two boys – one aloof, one fawning – is possibly one of the least fresh in the wide world of romantic fiction. That’s the main attraction of Dawn of the Arcana, at least as far as the first volume goes, so the reader is left to evaluate it based on execution. Toma has a lot of talent on her side. Her art is stylish, and her storytelling is sincere. But her ability to create characters that engage the reader quickly isn’t really in place. Nakaba, a psychic princess who’s forced into marriage, has some intriguing qualities that don’t have much to do with her effectiveness as the hinge of a love triangle. As a result, I ended up caring least about what Toma spent the largest amount of time examining. If she rounds out the story with more palace intrigue and dark destiny, the series could hold my attention better. – David Welsh
Fairy Tail, , Vol. 16 | By Hiro Mashima | Kodansha Comics – The end of one arc and the start of another here, but there’s much to like in this transitional volume of Fairy Tail. It’s rare that an author actually lets you know that they’ve added and changed material from the weekly magazine version, but Mashima is proud to point out that he was able to expand the celebration in Chapter 128, and rightly so – it really helps to show the sheer joy and happiness that the town is seeing, as well as the somewhat melancholy departure of Laxus. Another villain with basic good intentions, Laxus simply can’t stay in Fairy Tail after what he’s done, and the melodrama is appropriate here. There’s also a brief chapter featuring Lucy and her father, as she discovers he’s lost everything. The scene where he confronts her is incredibly discomfiting (which is what is intended.) Finally, we start on a new quest, and meet a bunch of new people from various other guilds. Betcha two to one it’s the cute loli girl who becomes the new cast member. As ever, if you want more One Piece-esque shonen and don’t mind that it’s not quite as good, Fairy Tail is a lot of fun.-Sean Gaffney
I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow, Vol. 4 | By Shunju Aono | Viz Media – The fourth volume of I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow introduces a new character, Aya Unami, a twenty-three-year-old editor who sees parallels between failed manga-ka Shizuo Oguro and her own father, a failed novelist. The relationship between Unami and Oguro supplies most of the dramatic juice in volume four, as Unami tries to discourage Oguro from submitting more work to EKKE. (“I think you need to know when to give up,” she tells him at the end of their first meeting.) Though Oguro never persuades her to publish “Live to 300,” his latest excruciatingly autobiographical manuscript, Oguro does have an epiphany about his tough-talking editor: she might be the only person with the vision and honesty to help him improve. Whether she’s willing to coach him, and whether he can accept her guidance… well, that’s another story. -Katherine Dacey
No Longer Human | Based on the novel by Osamu Dazai; Adapted by Variety Art Works | East Press – Given the commercial and critical success of Osamu Dazai’s final novel, it’s no surprise that so many manga publishers have commissioned adaptations. Vertical, Inc. has just released the first volume of Usamaru Furuya’s 2009 version, which transplants the story from pre-war Japan to the present day, while JManga has dug into the vault for an older, more straightforward version from East Press. The East Press version suffers by comparison with Furuya’s, as the artwork is clumsy and the pacing hurried; the adaptation team tries too hard to include every scene from Dazai’s book, resulting in a string of brief, two-to-three page episodes that never gel into a coherent story. Readers unfamiliar with Dazai’s novel may find this brief comic book treatment a useful place to start, but are encouraged to seek out Donald Keene’s English translation for a more thorough introduction to Dazai’s unflinching style. -Katherine Dacey
Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Vol. 6 | By Hiroshi Shiibashi | Viz Media – If you had any doubts about why VIZ licensed Nura, volume six should dispel them: it’s easily the most exciting installment to date, boasting several lengthy action sequences and a bevy of fierce-looking demons worthy of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi. The downside to all this activity, however, is that only the most committed reader will be able to follow the battles; Hiroshi Shiibashi stages too many separate fights at once, lurching back and forth between storylines with little regard for continuity. The second half of the volume is positively sedate in comparison, as Rikuo joins his human friends in exorcising a ghost with yakuza ties. Though the story follows a well-traveled path, Shiibashi manages a few scares and laughs, thanks to imaginative character designs and a denouement worthy of Scooby Doo himself. Fitfully entertaining. -Katherine Dacey
Only Serious About You, Vol. 1 | By Asou Kai | Digital Manga Publishing – Naoki Oosawa is a single dad balancing caring for his daughter Chizu and his busy work schedule at a restaurant. When Chizu falls ill, Oosawa accepts the help offered by a flirtatious gay customer, Seiichi Yoshioka, and ends up learning that Yoshioka is not quite as cavalier about relationships as it seems. There is much to like about this two-volume series so far. For one, it takes its time depicting the trust and friendship developing between Oosawa and Yoshioka, complete with many cute scenes in which Yoshioka bonds with Chizu. (There is an adorable moment involving hair ties, for example.) For another, I appreciate the way in which Yoshioka’s behavior can be reinterpreted once one begins to really understand him. That’s some sure-handed characterization. Ultimately, this was quite a pleasant surprise and I look forward to the second volume. – Michelle Smith
We Were There, Vol. 13 | By Yuuki Obata | Viz Media – In a romance series as melancholy as We Were There, there’s a point where even the most beloved relationship can become intolerable if it’s creating too much pain, and Nanami and Yano’s has finally reached that point, at least for this reader. This is not actually a criticism. It’s a testament to the realism of this series that I’ve come to regard Nanami as a friend who needs a good talking-to, in hopes that she’ll finally let go of her high school sweetheart and learn to appreciate what’s actually in front of her, “true love” be damned. Obata has a real knack for capturing some of the heart’s least fortunate truths and presenting them with both honesty and compassion, and this volume is a perfect example of that skill in action. Both quiet and complicated, We Were There is still one of the best ongoing series’ in Viz’s Shojo Beat catalogue. Recommended. – MJ
Noura saysNovember 28, 2011 at 1:49 pm
I read volume 13 of We Were There just two days ago and I have to admit that I am tired of the whole first love and high school sweetheart thing. This series is so soap opera-ish and it so reminds me of the Korean drama “Winter Sonata.” Anyway, no matter what anyone says, I want Nana-chan to end up with Takeuchi-kun and not Yano. It will be more realistic this way and it would definitely make me happy. Having a happy ending at this point is a bit unrealistic, IMO. I know most of the readers are waiting for this happy ending but I hope Obata-sensei doesn’t go the typical way in ending her series. Ai Yazawa did a great job in ending Paradise Kiss, so I hope Obata-sensei does something different as well.
I still don’t like the characters much in this series but if I have to choose, I’d say Takeuchi-kun is somehow the most tolerated one.
lovelyduckie saysNovember 28, 2011 at 6:00 pm
Initially I gobbled up We Were There…but I haven’t read a volume in a while. I think I’ll just slowly collect them and re-read it start to finish. I oftentimes need to take a break from long running shoujo because the long waits between each release breaks the spell I’m under when I can best appreciate what I’m reading…unless it’s The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko or Skip Beat!…I read those as soon as more content is available.
So the 13th boy is a good read? I considered it but had concerns that it would be a bit too young for me. I ended up buying and liking Angel Diary instead. Maybe I’ll give volume 1 a try.
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 28, 2011 at 6:50 pm
I’ll warn you that volume 1 of 13th Boy is kind of a mess, but it has great potential which it more than fulfills as the series goes on.
firstname.lastname@example.org saysNovember 28, 2011 at 9:13 pm
We Were There volume 13 made me cry! This volume was a bit frustrating to read, and I think that shows Obata’s skill in capturing the emotions of her characters and allowing the audience to experience those same feelings. Even though they’ve been through so much, I’ve always hoped that Yano and Nanami would find their way back to each other. But even if they don’t, I don’t want to see Nanami settle for Takeuchi because even though he may be the better guy, I don’t think she’d be happy with him. If anything, the most realistic ending would be if everyone ended up on their own – because this series has always been more about growing up than romance.
Rij saysNovember 29, 2011 at 9:53 pm
I just read vol 9 of 13th Boy and I have to say that it didn’t give me what I wanted. I ship Hee-So with Whie-Young and that pairing still seems somewhat improbable. I’m writing scenarios where it happens in my head, trying to figure out how the author would solve his supposed fate.
I don’t remember if I mentioned it somewhere here earlier, but I did start 13th Boy based on all the positive comments and reviews you ladies have been writing. Thank You!
Melinda Beasi saysNovember 29, 2011 at 9:56 pm
Well…if you think about it, Beatrice was created by Whie-Young, so it isn’t that far off. That’s actually how I expect the series to end up, but I am enjoying this while it lasts.