This week, Kate, MJ, Sean, & Michelle take a look at recent releases from Kodansha Comics, Vertical, Inc., VIZ Media, Yen Press, Digital Manga Publishing, and JManga.
Bloody Monday, Vol. 3 | Story by Ryou Ryumon, Art by Kouji Megumi | Kodansha Comics – I can see why Bloody Monday appeals to teenage boys: not only do its adolescent heroes get to kick ass and match wits with evil adults, they also get to ogle beautiful villains and work alongside cute classmates. For an adult reader, however, the plot mechanics are too creaky to overlook the obvious wish-fulfillment angle. Too many scenes bog down in obvious explanation, as characters repeatedly tell each other things that one would hope world-class crime solvers would know — even if they’re only sixteen. The action scenes remain the series’ strength, as they’re the only time the exposition-dense chatter and obvious voice-overs are silenced in favor of good old-fashioned chases and shoot-outs. It’s a shame that Bloody Monday is such a mixed bag, as its paranoid, the Russians-are-out-to-get-us plot could be the basis of a terrific, globe-trotting thriller. – Katherine Dacey
Chi’s Sweet Home, Vols. 7-8 | By Konata Konami | Vertical, Inc. – Now that I own a cat, I’ve developed an even deeper appreciation for the genius of Konata Konami. So many of the details in Chi are beautifully observed, whether Chi is stalking new “prey” (a goldfish, a feather duster) or calculating the distance between two high perches. Konami also depicts new pet ownership with accuracy and warmth: like the Yamadas, I’ve spent a lot of time reading cat books in an effort to decode Francesca’s behavior, feed her the right food, and interpret symptoms of illness. I can’t speak to Chi’s relationship with Cocchi — my cat’s only animal companion is a frustrated herding dog — but even that feels right to me. A must for cat fanciers. – Katherine Dacey
Dengeki Daisy, Vol. 8 | By Kyousuke Motomi | VIZ Media – Make no mistake, this is easily the best volume of Dengeki Daisy yet. Okay, yes, part of the cliffhanger from last volume just sort of fizzles out, but it leads to Teru finally getting the full story (through flashbacks) about Kurosaki’s past as a dangerous hacker and his relationship with Soichiro and the various former coworkers with whom he still associates. Although mangaka Kyousuke Motomi can’t quite manage to write a compelling mystery plot—any attempts to hint at some vast conspiracy are generally vague and uninteresting, though we do get a little direction on who’s orchestrating the attacks on Teru—there’s still some good stuff here for fans of these characters, especially in the way Soichiro draws a young, heartbroken Kurosaki out of his shell. I do have to wonder, though, whether returning to the present day will feel like a let down after this. – Michelle Smith
Fairy Tail, Vol. 17 | By Hiro Mashima | Kodansha Comics – I have to admit, Mashima is starting to lose me here. There’s a lot going on in this volume provided you like fights – but if you’re not a big shonen fight fan, the only thing to grab a hold of is the big plot revelation, which brings back someone who I’m not really sure we all wanted to see back. Yeah, I know ‘no one dies in shonen comics’ has become somewhat of a cliche, but this just felt very underwhelming. It doesn’t help that I still have trouble holding the new characters in my head, be they heroes or villains. On the plus side, Erza being out of the action for most of the volume gives Gray a chance to shine. And the cliffhanger, involving Loke, makes me really want to know what happens next. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to save a substandard volume of this series.-Sean Gaffney
I Love You, Chief Clerk! | By Keiko Kinoshita | JManga – BL anthologies are probably my least favorite type of manga to review. With a handful of exceptions (est em, for example), BL mangaka, at least those currently published in English, seem to be especially inept at the admittedly difficult art of telling a satisfying, well-developed story in just one or two chapters. Happily, Keiko Kinoshita proves herself to be one of the exceptions. Despite its simplistic title, I Love You, Chief Clerk! is a charming collection of short romance manga that manage to get right to the heart of their stories without feeling rushed or skimpy. Kinoshita deftly introduces her characters and defines their relationships, past and present, with just a few sure strokes. She’s not concerned so much with resolution as she is with creating a few truly genuine moments, and that’s all it takes to bring her adorable short stories to life. Gratefully recommended. – MJ
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 7 | By Kiiro Yumi and Hiro Arikawa | VIZ Media – While readers have been reading about the not-quite-romance between Kasahara and Dojo, the plot has been slowly building up, and this is the volume where a lot of the plot cannons are fired. Following up on last volume, Tezuka gets a lot of development here, and I was also pleased to see Shibazaki’s lunch dates continue. But the real meat of this is the plot with our heroine, as a conspiracy tries to frame her and she has to lay low while her friends figure out who’s behind it. Seeing the social and normally upbeat Kasahara being so beaten down and downtrodden is quite heartbreaking, and more so when we know she’s “trying to be strong” – exactly what Dojo *doesn’t* want. For those who wanted more library wars in this manga, this is the volume to get.-Sean Gaffney
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Vol. 11 | Art by Haku Tsugano, Story by Nagaru Tanigawa, Characters by Noizi Ito | Yen Press – The eleventh volume of Haruhi Suzumiya irresistibly reminded me of a classic Star Trek plot line, in which a rift in time, a strange illness, or an amnesia-inducing event causes the crew to act out of character. For Harhui and her friends, the sudden rash of odd behavior begins when they’re banished to an alternate dimension; only by solving a math puzzle can they return to their normal lives. Newcomers will find this volume a difficult place to begin exploring this unique series, as the story relies too heavily on the reader’s prior knowledge of the characters. Die-hards, however, will find more of what they like: humorous interplay between characters, off-beat mysteries, and occasional bits of fanservice. -Katherine Dacey
Natsume’s Book of Friends, Vol. 11 | By Yuki Midorikawa | Viz Media – I know this is a monthly manga, but at times the author really seems to plot her arcs out to the individual volumes. The first half shows Natsume bonding even more with Tanuma and Taki (OT3!!!… sorry), and finding that he can rely on them to be there for him no matter what. Then in the 2nd half, we see that as much as he may want to open up, it’s simply not that easy given what he goes through every day… and what he went through as a child. We are our upbringing, after all. There’s also some nice yokai examination here – even the “nice” ones are still distrustful and uncomprehending about humanity. This even applies to Nyanko-sensei, who’s still saying he’s only hanging around to get the Book of Friends after all this time. Rather than admitting the deep bond he and Natsume have forged. Terrific stuff.-Sean Gaffney
No Longer Human, Vol. 3 | By Usamaru Furuya, Based on the novel by Osamu Dazai | Vertical, Inc. – In the afterword to volume three, Usamaru Furuya admits that as a teenager, he “found beauty” in the hero’s “ruinous lifestyle.” That admission is key to understanding the strengths and weaknesses of Furuya’s adaptation of No Longer Human. On the one hand, it’s immediate and visceral, depicting a young man’s fall from grace in symbolically rich imagery; Furuya has succeeded in translating an ambiguous text into a feverish nightmare of father-hate and drunken debauchery. On the other, many of the nuances of Dazai’s text have been filed away, making Yozo’s transformation seem more pedestrian than it did in the novel; it’s a Lifetime movie about addiction, minus a third-act redemption. Still, for readers new to Dazai’s work, Furuya’s adaptation provides a sturdy bridge between the original novel and the present day, showing readers that No Longer Human is as relevant now as it was in 1948. – Katherine Dacey
Only Serious About You, Vol. 2 | By Kai Asou | Digital Manga Publishing – Though I know of a few gay men who read and enjoy BL manga, the fact remains that it’s a genre written by women for women. Reading this second volume of Only Serious About You, however, made me think that here is a series I would recommend to any gay man, pre-existing manga fan or not. The evolution of the relationship between single dad Oosawa and his former customer, Yoshioka, is handled with sensitivity and realism, and the bond they share caring for Oosawa’s daughter, Chizu, is seriously touching. Yoshioka had a tough childhood, and helping to raise Chizu is like a healing experience for him, and when reserved Oosawa finally decides to accept all that Yoshioka’s willing to give, it’s sniffle time. The sense of family among these three is palpable, and a great example of the loving home two men can provide a child. A lovely, lovely story. More by Kai Asou, please! – Michelle Smith
Rij saysFebruary 14, 2012 at 6:51 am
I really liked Only Serious About You too. I think two or three volumes is perhaps the perfect lenght for a simple romance manga like this. Any more and I’d get bore, any less and it feels too rushed. This was just good in every way. The extras were really funny too.