This week, MJ, Michelle, Kate, & Sean take a look at new releases from Vertical Inc., Viz Media, Kodansha Comics, and Dark Horse.
Chi’s Sweet Home, Vol. 7 | By Konami Kanata | Vertical, Inc. – One might imagine that a manga series about the life of a cute cat would eventually become… boring. Fortunately, the appeal of Chi’s Sweet Home endures, adding to the internet’s growing body of evidence suggesting that the human fascination with feline behavior is essentially endless. In volume seven, Chi spends some time out of the house with stray cat Cocchi, who introduces her to the neighborhood’s best food sources, for better or worse. This series remains as fresh and charming as ever, and also stands as one of the few currently-running manga that can be successfully picked up at pretty much any point. This volume works as well as a stand-alone set of cute cat comics as it does as part of a heart-warming series, so there’s no excuse for passing on it, even if you’ve missed what’s come before. Still recommended. -MJ
Chi’s Sweet Home, Vol. 7 | By Konami Kanata | Vertical, Inc. – As a cat owner, I read Chi with a certain amount of sympathy for all parties concerned. This is especially true in this volume, wherein Chi eats something strange while exploring outside and ends up being whisked to the vet for treatment by her frantic owners. (Barf is such a ubiquitous part of cat ownership I’m actually pretty amazed that it took until chapter 127 for Kanata to get around to depicting it!) True, sometimes her owners still do very unwise things (like bring a new goldfish into their home), but Yohei continues to be adorable, as do Chi’s outdoor pals. I’m especially fond of Cocchi, a kitten without a home who plays gruff but secretly enjoys cuddling with Chi. His sad story—and Chi’s brush with danger—also serve to show that this series doesn’t need to rely on cuteness to affect its audience. Perennially recommended. – Michelle Smith
No Longer Human, Vol. 2 | Based on the novel by Osamu Dazai, Adapted by Usamaru Furuya | Vertical, Inc. – I’m of two minds about No Longer Human. On the one hand, Usamaru Furuya’s sense of pacing and narrative has never been stronger; working from Osamu Dazai’s text, Furuya has crafted a grim but compelling story about a young man’s fall from grace. On the other hand, Furuya’s interpretation of the lead character, Yozo, is less nuanced than Dazai’s; Yozo has been transformed a young man paralyzed by his own self awareness to a garden-variety narcissist who thinks only of himself. That small but important change gives the material a bitter aftertaste, making No Longer Human a difficult manga to read — not because bad things happen, but because the hero’s apathy makes him seem like more of a jerk than a wounded soul. An uneven but worthy introduction to Dazai’s work. -Katherine Dacey
Negima! Magister Negi Magi Omnibus, Vol. 3 | By Ken Akamatsu | Kodansha Comics. – This third omnibus, containing Vols. 7-9 of Negima, sees Akamatsu shuffle plot points into position, dot i’s and cross t’s, and generally prepare for the next big arc, the fighting tournament. Most of Vol. 7 is taken up with a fight between Negi and Asuna, who is at her most Naru-esque here, a trait she’ll lose as the series goes on. Vol. 8 reintroduces Kotaro, but on Negi’s side and becoming a much needed “male friend”. The translation by the Nibleys had less to alter here – Trish Ledoux was not as free as Peter David was – so it’s not as absolutely necessary a buy as 1 and 2 were. Still, those re-reading will enjoy the foreshadowing of things that happened years later Akamatsu throws in here, as well as casually dropping in his first big villain – one of Negi’s own students! There’s also less service here (though still quite a bit), leading me to think this is where Akamatsu gained control over Kodansha’s editors.-Sean Gaffney
Oh My Goddess, Vol. 40 | By Kosuke Fujishima | Dark Horse Comics. – If you skip to the Letters column of this very short volume, you’ll see Carl apologizing – it was only 112 pages in Japan as well, for unknown reasons. It’s supposed to be a one-time thing. Still, we do get some action in these 5 chapters, as Keiichi and the three goddesses begin their journey into Hell to battle Hild’s usurpers. Keiichi’s place in the group is brought up a few times, and we get a few good reasons why he’s there – he’s genuinely good at strategy and thinking on his feet, something we’ve seen before but tend to forget because it’s balanced with so much of him waffling and not shtupping Belldandy. Speaking of whom, Bell’s jealousy is really starting to get lampshaded in these chapters – Hild’s farewell kiss causes Bell to lose control of her powers, and when a demon threatens Keiichi, she’s quick to break in with a pointed threat. Those who have read the series all along will still enjoy this volume, small though it may be.-Sean Gaffney
Psyren, Vol. 2 | By Toshiaki Iwashiro | Viz Media – The second volume of Psyren is a minor improvement on the first, thanks in large part to the introduction of a second memorable female character, Matsuri Yagumo, a motorcycle-riding concert pianist who also wields a mean kitana. Though we’re treated to a few moments of Matsuri strutting her stuff, her primary role — in this volume, at least — is to explain the rules of Psyren to newcomers Ageha and Hiryu. Those exposition-dense passages dominate the volume, slowing the narrative to a crawl while Matsuri lectures the boys on how to use their psionic powers and what they can expect to see within the game. With the basic groundwork for the story laid, one can only hope that the talk-to-action ratio in volume three will cant more strongly towards the latter. -Katherine Dacey