This week, Sean and Kate look at recent releases from Yen Press, VIZ Media, and Dark Horse Comics.
13th Boy, Vol. 12 | By SangEun Lee | Yen Press – For a series that featured a talking cactus in a doo-rag and a sassy stuffed rabbit, 13th Boy has a surprisingly restrained finale. Yes, there are dramatic moments, but author SangEun Lee focuses more on what her characters don’t say to one another than what they do; she honors the intensity of their feelings while reminding us that teenagers don’t usually express themselves in complete paragraphs outside the world of Dawson’s Creek. Readers who became attached to 13th Boys‘s supporting cast won’t leave disappointed, either; Lee includes a lengthy postscript explaining, in comic detail, what happened to Nam-Joo, Sae Bom, and Hee-So’s sisters. In short, 13th Boy‘s last installment offers readers a happy ending that’s ever-so-slightly tinged with sadness, remaining true to the spirit of earlier volumes. -Katherine Dacey
A Devil and Her Love Song, Vol. 4 | By Miyoshi Tomori | VIZ Media – OK, first of all, that teacher has to go. Seriously, I cannot take nine more volumes of him. That said, apart from him, there was an excellent attempt made at humanizing all the kids in this volume. There’s still the usual high school melodrama, with everyone believing the worst of everyone else – especially Maria – but her blunt forthrightness is actually starting to pay dividends, as we see one of the class pretty yet petty girls (she has princess curls, so you know she’s a brat) attempting to follow that path… and finding, as Maria has, that it’s full of thorns. So the other kids are finding that Maria is not this hideous ‘other’ that she was painted as, but Maria still can’t quite see herself as being just like them. Also, kisses out of nowhere. That can be bad for a girl’s fragile heart. Can’t wait for the next volume. –Sean Gaffney
The Earl and the Fairy, Vol. 3 | Story and Art by Ayuko, Original Concept by Mizue Tani | VIZ Media – The Earl and the Fairy is a quintessential Shojo Beat title: it has a handsome male lead who’s both a rogue and a romantic, a spunky heroine who won’t admit she likes him, and a pretty female rival who schemes to separate the heroine from her prince. In volume three, for example, Lydia finds herself locked in a battle of wits with Rosalie, a spoiled girl who’s enlisted a “bogey-beast” to dispatch any woman who shows so much as a faint interest in Edgar. Lydia and Rosalie’s catty exchanges wouldn’t be out of place in a high school melodrama, but the supernatural elements and Victorian setting add an element of dramatic interest that distracts the reader from the sheer predictability of the scenario. That the volume ends with a genuine cliffhanger is one its most pleasant surprises; we may not have much difficulty guessing the outcome, but there’s enough at stake for the reader to wait patiently for the next installment in December. -Katherine Dacey
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 8 | Story and Art by Kiiro Yumi, Original Concept by Hiro Arakawa | VIZ Media – I’ve been something of a skeptic about Library Wars — not because I disliked the premise, but because I found story too pat. Volume eight has almost made me into a convert, as it strikes a better balance between Ray Bradburian intrigue and shojo romance, introducing a subplot with a radical anti-censorship group and a possible court martial for Kasahara. What prevents it from being a slam dunk is Kasahara’s impenetrable cluelessness; she spends almost half of volume eight berating herself for not recognizing Dojo as the “prince” who inspired her to join the Library Forces — an epiphany that all but the least astute reader had in the very first chapter of the series. Let’s hope Kasahara’s Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment frees Kiiro Yumi to move the story in a more compelling — and dramatically fruitful — direction in volume nine. -Katherine Dacey
Oh My Goddess!, Vol. 42 | By Kosuke Fujishima | Dark Horse Comics – Skuld graces the cover of this volume, and that’s appropriate as she’s the focus for most of it as well. Skuld’s growing power and growing maturity has been an ongoing plot point in this series, and it ties in well to the overall subplot of ‘inanimate objects need love too, and will reward you if you treat them right’. Skuld faces off against a demon with a better set of machines, but she triumphs because her machines are sentient beings with feelings to her, and she doesn’t destroy them so casually. We also see a sign she may pass her sisters some day – she doesn’t need the big spell buildup the other two do. Apart from her, though, the plot churns along slowly, as we advance from boss fight to boss fight, waiting for the inevitable climax. Which is very slow in arriving. –Sean Gaffney
Soul Eater, Vol. 10 | By Atsushi Ohkubo | Yen Press – There’s a whole lot going on in this volume. Our heroes finish their battle against Mosquito, with the help of Soul’s piano (it makes sense in context), but fail to obtain their objective… which is, of course, in the enemy’s hands. Maka finds that Crona may be a double agent. Black*Star is having issues with his power destroying him, and his bullheadedness leads to a fight with Death The Kid. And a new character from Marie’s past comes to the DWMA to try and ferret out a traitor. If you’ve read stories like these, you can guess how that’s going to end up. Impressively, the author manages to make these all work together, and invest some real emotion in their fates, especially B.J. and Black*Star. I still love the weird art deco art style, but it’s not longer just about that. This is a dark, addicting rush of a manga.-Sean Gaffney