This week, Kate, Sean, and Michelle look at recent releases from Vertical, Inc., Viz Media, and Kodansha Comics.
5 Centimeters Per Second | By Makoto Shinkai and Yukiko Senkei | Vertical, Inc. – In this skillful adaptation of Makoto Shinkai’s film, middle schooler Tohno Takaki falls in love with classmate Akari Shinohara. First love is a common manga subject, but Shinkai and collaborator Yukiko Senkei resist the temptation to idealize Tohno’s formative romantic experiences; rather, Shinkai and Senkei show us how that relationship’s gradual disintegration soured Tohno on love, making him loathe to form similar attachments to anyone else — even in adulthood. Tohno’s quest to achieve closure on this first love is carefully and beautifully observed, making 5 Centimeters Per Second a compelling read. – Katherine Dacey
GTO: 14 Days in Shonan, Vol. 3 | By Tohru Fujisawa | Vertical, Inc. – Reading a new installment of GTO: 14 Days in Shonan is a lot like listening to a comedian perform “The Aristocrats”: the humor lies less with the punchline than with the telling of the joke. In the third volume of Shonan, for example, Onizuka has his share of lady troubles. Though anyone familiar with Onizuka’s track record can anticipate the outcome of his encounters with the White Swan’s female staffers, watching Onizuka strike out with both women is excruciatingly funny. As in previous volumes, some of the jokes cross the line from raunchy but funny to just plain rude; I could have done without the cameo from Eikichi, canine sidekick to Onizuka’s supervisor at Holy Forest Academy. Still, the gags yield laughs more often than not, and the sprinkling of heart-warming dramatic moments prevent the story from becoming too silly. Still recommended. – Katherine Dacey
Oresama Teacher, Vol. 9 | By Izumi Tsubaki | VIZ Media – After a couple of not-so-great volumes, the ninth volume of Oresama Teacher represents a (likely temporary) turn for the better. It’s the first school festival in three years (a riot at the last one ruined the school’s reputation), so Mafuyu dons her (male) Natsuo guise to make sure it goes off without a hitch. I can’t claim that the plot here is really very good—the reveal about why students keep disappearing at 5 o’clock is particularly groan-inducing—but I like Natsuo, and I like Okegawa, the reluctant bancho of the school’s gang. Somehow, the stories about Mafuyu’s former gangmates bore me to tears, but Okegawa’s gang dynamics are more interesting. It probably helps that none of them are one-note masochists. Anyway, I will probably keep reading Oresama Teacher, but I think it’s gotten to the point where I’ll be checking it out from the local library rather than making it a permanent part of my collection. – Michelle Smith
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Vol. 5 | By Kenji Kuroda and Kazuo Maekawa | Kodansha Comics – I’ve noted before that the only people who should be reading this series are hardcore fans of the games. That said, the manga does actually do a good job at keeping the feel of those games. Both the cases in this final volume of PW:AA feel like events that could, if drawn out a bit more, have appeared somewhere in the third game or so. Indeed, it even features a Franziska Von Karma who helps out our heroes, although it’s subtle and she denies it when asked. But the humor, the mysteries, the stunned poses of overdramatic guilt from everyone: this is exactly what a media tie-in should be like. Given that the manga will never ‘fill in the blanks’ between Phoenix and Apollo, that is. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s fun. – Sean Gaffney
Psyren, Vol. 5 | By Toshiaki Iwashiro | VIZ Media – Ah, another one of those ‘fighting’ volumes we see so often in Jump manga. It was nice to see Kabuto actually gain a useful power, though it seems to be something designed more around his cowardly personality than anything else. The opening of the volume was rather startling, showing us the gruesome deaths of the Elmore Wood kids trying to defend the Earth. Clearly we’re going to be looking at changing that future. But mostly this volume is lots of villains bragging about how resistance is useless against them, and then heroes kicking their asses. Generally, I think volumes like this should be saved and read with one of the more ‘plot’ oriented books – which Volume 6 should be, given the pattern of ‘plot – fight – plot’ the manga has established. Not bad, but clearly second-tier Jump. – Sean Gaffney
Vampire Knight, Vol. 14 | By Matsuri Hino | VIZ Media – I’ve given up on following the plot in this series. It comes out too infrequently now that it’s caught up with Japan, and so I find it impossible to keep track of anything even with the guide at the front and back. Yuki, meanwhile, has recovered from Kaname’s induced flashback, and feels closer to him in that vaguely romantic, vaguely familial way we’ve grown used to. Sara continues to be the real genuine villain here, contrasting with Kaname’s tortured ‘I do what I must’ personality. Her little yuri harem of thralls is disturbing in the extreme. But despite her rule-breaking, the real shocker in the volume is the fate of Aido’s father, which results in Yuki being arrested – no doubt to meet up with Zero again. So pretty, but so utterly confusing. – Sean Gaffney