This week, MJ, Michelle, Kate, & Sean look at new releases from Viz Media, Kodansha Comics, and Seven Seas.
Bakuman, Vol. 10 | By Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata | VIZ Media – Tension is high as this volume begins, with Mashiro and Takagi’s career on the line—or at least their future with Weekly Shonen Jump. Developing their latest series for a win-or-die serialization meeting dominates the bulk of this volume, and the overwhelming intensity Ohba and Obata are able to bring to this process is a prime example of Bakuman at its best. Volume ten is irresistibly compelling, in exactly the way its protagonists are struggling to achieve with their own work, making it pretty much the perfect meta-manga. Even its personal relationships—usually the series’ weak point—hold up fairly well in this volume, especially those between the two protagonists and their rivaling editors, Miura and Hattori. I’ve had some shaky moments with this series, but even I couldn’t put this volume down. Rock on, Bakuman, rock on. – MJ
Itsuwaribito, Vol. 5 | By Yuuki Iinuma | VIZ Media – Oh, Itsuwaribito, you had such promise! Your hero travels in appealing company. He tangles with villains of every stripe, using verbal acrobatics to defeat them. And he has a compelling reason for using his unique verbal gifts. Unfortunately, Utsuho’s story has proved oddly unengaging; as the fifth volume of Itsuwaribito demonstrates, author Yuuki Iinuma has a tin ear and terrible sense of pacing. These tendencies come to the fore whenever he introduces a new character: Iinuma can’t resist giving every villain, hero, and traveling companion a Tragic Past that needs to be explained in excruciating detail. The result is a story that’s fitfully engaging, roaring to life only when Utsuho and his companions stumble into a new situation. – Katherine Dacey
Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You, Vol. 13 | By Karuho Shiina | VIZ Media – As much as it has been truly wonderful to see Sawako and Kazehaya finally become a couple, I’ve lately become fascinated by Sawako’s friend, Ayane Yano, and wanted to know more about her. I seem to be getting my wish, as volume thirteen finds Ayane agreeing to date a boy she wasn’t even previously aware of, partly to have fun on the school trip to Okinawa and partly, perhaps, in hopes of making a connection that isn’t as easy for her to make as it is for others. Her reaction when Sawako assumes she must’ve liked the boy for a long time is priceless and highlights how different she is from her friends and many shoujo heroines. Ayane isn’t openly emotional and pure-hearted. Instead, she’s private and considers herself to be calculating, even though she acts in her friends’ best interests time and time again. You’ve got to love a series with such a complicated secondary character! – Michelle Smith
Negima! Magister Negi Magi Omnibus, Vol. 4 | By Ken Akamatsu | Kodansha Comics – These three volumes of Negima – Vols. 10-12 – are when fandom really began to explode in North America, and it’s not hard to see why. The school festival is where everything starts to come together – the tournament shows off Akamatsu’s desire for shonen fighting, there’s still plenty of cute girls being nearly naked all the time for his old-school fans, and the plot kicks into overdrive with Asuna’s past, the appearance of “Ku:nel Sanders”, and most of all the revelation of Chao as this arc’s big villain. Plus it has the return of Chisame, who is my second favorite character, doing what she does best – boggling in disbelief that everyone is accepting this. A terrific read, provided as always you don’t mind Akamatsu getting his “fanservice” chapters in every once in a while. –Sean Gaffney
Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Vol. 9 | By Hiroyuki Asada | VIZ Media – I stand by initial assessment of Tegami Bachi: it’s one of the best-looking titles in the Shonen Jump line, even if the story isn’t on par with, say, One Piece. The latest volume introduces a conspiracy theory that adds a badly needed element of complexity to the central narrative. As Lag is dismayed to learn, his old hero Gauche Suede has become an outlaw and adopted a new name. Lag rescues Gauche, only to discover that the government is intent on removing Gauche from Letter Bee headquarters. The battle scenes that follow are beautifully staged, striking a fine balance between action and reflection; only Niche’s aversion to underpants spoils the mood. After several ho-hum volumes, volume nine reaffirms the promise of the very first chapters — a fancy way of saying that I’m officially hooked on Tegami Bachi again. -Katherine Dacey
Toradora!, Vol. 4 | By Yuyuko Takemiya and Zekkyo | Seven Seas – I have to hand it to the authors, they really know how to take Taiga’s frustratoin and ramp it up to eleven. Everything that she’s dealing with goes wrong here – her issues with her small, undeveloped body; her growing feelings for Ryuuji (“RYUUJI IS MINE!”) and jealousy of Ami wanting to ‘take him’; and of course her ability to be angry at everything, whether deserved or not. It’s a miracle that she’s sympathetic, but of course she is, and that’s what gives this manga its heart. There’s less Minori this time around (except for a priceless final gag regarding underwear choice), but I can deal with that. The only downside continues to be Ryuuji’s mother, who is meant to be a stereotypical ‘blonde bimbo’, but is so utterly stereotypical that she gets on your nerves – and not in the good way that Taiga does. –Sean Gaffney
Toriko, Vol. 9 | By Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro | VIZ Media – In terms of plot, this is an entire volume of shonen battle. Of course, this being Toriko, half of the ‘battle’ is against thee environment – it’s rather startling how many deaths we see here just form the cold conditions. Of course, that’s not to say there’s no fighting at all. Tommyrod and Bogie are possibly the creepiest villains we’ve seen yet, and the artist is determined to make you squirm, especially if body horror is not your thing. Of course, this is still a Jump title, so there’s plenty of humor as well – the new guy, whoever he may be, is a stitch when talking to himself – and even a cute mascot of sorts as Komatsu bonds with a baby penguin. Still, overall this volume was very much ‘get closer to goal while stopping to fight people who want to stop us getting to goal’, like many well-done shonen manga. I wonder if we’ll reach the goal next time? –Sean Gaffney
Aaron saysApril 16, 2012 at 9:12 am
I’ve kind of got my fingers crossed that something will happen between Ayane and Kent but who knows a boy can dream can’t he.
Noura saysApril 16, 2012 at 9:40 am
I totally agree with you, Michelle. Ayane is one of the most interesting and complicated secondary characters. I have always found myself interested in her story more than Sawako and Chizu’s. I think that such a character needs to be handled carefully and I kinda want something different and special for her. I cannot tell what Shiina-sensei is planning for her but I hope she will be with someone different. Kento is a good candidate but I am having my eyes on Pin. I think he and Ayane would make an interesting and somewhat different couple. On the other hand, Kento is a typical shoujo male character and a relationship between them won’t be anything new or special. I am looking forward to see who is the one who will make Ayane finally confess to. I am actually anticipating the moment it happens. Can’t wait for volume 14.
Michelle Smith saysApril 16, 2012 at 10:26 am
I was definitely getting some Ayane/Pin vibes in recent volumes, especially when she got all flustered that he called her a nice girl even after she referred to herself as calculating. I don’t think we’ve ever seen any other guy disturb her composure like that.
Noura saysApril 16, 2012 at 10:41 am
I started to think that something might happen between Pin and Ayane in the future after reading volume 11 and that chapter in particular where he patted her on the head and said that she is a nice girl. She definitely got flustered then and the emotions shown in that scene were kinda hard to miss. Now, if Pin is the one who will sweep her off her feet is something we cannot tell as Ayane is a very complicated character and since she never confessed to a guy before, I don’t think it will be that simple or that it will happen anytime soon.
Whatever happens and no matter how long it takes, I just hope it will be Pin at the end. :) What about you, Michelle? Would you like it if Pin was the one for Ayane or you prefer someone her age?
Michelle Smith saysApril 16, 2012 at 10:44 am
I really don’t know. I kind of like her with Pin, but it’s hard for me to cheer on any sort of student-teacher romance, both because it’s kind of creepy and because it seems to happen a lot.
Noura saysApril 16, 2012 at 10:55 am
I agree on the student-teacher part but for some reason, I kind of like the idea of Pin and Ayane together. I think it is mostly because Pin doesn’t look much like a teacher sometimes. Well, at the end, he is still their teacher and so if something is to happen, it would be great if it happens after Ayane graduates. :)