This week, Michelle, Sean, Kate, & Melinda look at recent releases from VIZ Media, Yen Press, and Vertical, Inc.
Bleach, Vols. 50-51 | By Tite Kubo | VIZ Media – The interminable Hueco Mundo arc finally came to an end in 48 with Ichigo losing his soul reaper powers and bidding farewell to Rukia and her world. That would’ve been a terrific place to end the series, but because Bleach continues to be profitable, Kubo must find new ways to keep the story going. He does so by hitting the reset button, as Ichigo (17 months after the big battle) is introduced to a new sort of power called a Fullbring that he is now working to master. I’m rather “meh” about this new arc so far—I don’t care about the group teaching Ichigo or their enemy—but there are more scenes with Orihime and the gang than we’ve seen for a long time as well as some intrigue involving Ichigo’s father and sister that could prove interesting. And hey, no Aizen! – Michelle Smith
A Bride’s Story, Vol. 3 | By Kaoru Mori | Yen Press – I think I enjoyed this volume of A Bride’s Story more than the previous two (despite taking several months to actually read it). I’d felt that the cast was distant and remote at times, especially the heroine. Not an issue here, as most of the volume follows the Englishman, Smith, as he tries to get to Turkey. On the way, he runs into locals that are far less accommodating than the village we know, and almost loses his life. He also falls for a young widow trying to provide for her family despite desperate circumstances. We are led to think that the two will solve each other’s problems—but Smith gets rescued by a deus ex machina, and circumstance conspires to ensure he’ll never see the girl he’s fallen for again. It’s quite bittersweet and sad, and thus more compelling. Oh, and Pariya is terrific. More with her, please. -Sean Gaffney
Durarara!!, Vol. 4 | By Ryohgo Narita, Suzuhito Yasuda & Akiyo Satorigi | Yen Press – The danger of reading the manga after experiencing the novel and anime starts to rear its ugly head here—I felt myself muttering “Celty’s arc was done much better there” throughout the volume. However, this does not mean there aren’t some good moments here. To everyone’s surprise, Seiji ends up “winning” the day, if only temporarily—and Mikado admits that he thinks that Seiki and Mika make an excellent couple, which is probably nastier than he had really intended. Speaking of nasty, Izaya also wins the day (hell, Shizuo doesn’t even appear), gaining a new slave… um, assistant, and reminding Mikado that you can’t just dabble in a world like Durarara!!, you have to sink your claws deep into it. Which can be extremely dangerous. As we’ll find out when the Saika arc starts next spring. -Sean Gaffney
Heroman, Vol. 1 | Created by Stan Lee, BONES, and Tamon Ohta | Vertical, Inc. – It’s not hard to see why Stan Lee is irresistibly drawn to shonen manga; Peter Parker, his best-loved creation, would fit right in with the earnest, super-powered strivers of Naruto and Bleach. Heroman, a joint collaboration between Lee, animation studio BONES, and manga-ka Tamon Ohta, tells the story of Joey Jones, a hard-working kid who lives with his grandmother on the wrong side of the tracks. After Joey salvages a broken robot from a trash bin, his life takes a turn for the better: that robot can transform into Heroman, a giant mechanical warrior capable of saving the world from alien invaders. While young readers may find this marriage of Silver Age superheroics and shonen manga fun, older teens will find Heroman stale and obvious, with plot twists so predicable you could almost set your watch by them, and sloppy, amateurish artwork. A rare miss for Vertical. -Katherine Dacey
Paradise Kiss, Vol. 1 | By Ai Yazawa | Vertical, Inc. – One of the things I like best about Ai Yazawa is her ability to tell convincing stories set in the world of fashion or rock-n-roll; however glamorous her characters and their situations may seem, Yazawa has a knack for writing emotionally resonant scenes that feel true to everyday life. Paradise Kiss is no exception. The heroine’s journey to self-realization may begin with an invitation to model a fashion collection, but the story never veers into soap-opera territory; Caroline seems like a real teenager throughout Paradise Kiss, even as she falls in love with the older, more sexually experienced George. Though the new Vertical edition looks like a million bucks, the translation isn’t as snappy as the Tokyopop version from the mid-2000s—not a deal-breaker by any means, but a little bit of disappointment, given the age and interests of the series’ characters. Still, if you missed Paradise Kiss the first time around, the new edition is worth the splurge. -Katherine Dacey
Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Vol. 2 | By Magica Quartet & Hanokage | Yen Press – At least one devastating truth is revealed in volume two, and emotions run high as new magical girl Sayaka falls quickly into darkness. Meanwhile, Homura continues to thwart Kyubey’s attempts to recruit Madoka for reasons yet unknown, though the volume’s final pages hint at a highly sinister reveal still to come. While there is no denying that this series is a genuinely fascinating (if ceaselessly dark) take on the genre, this manga adaptation continues to lag behind its source material both in character development and visual storytelling. The book’s battle sequences—filled with tension and surprising beauty in the original anime—tend to be short, messy, and difficult to follow. Worse, their hurried pacing keeps them from really moving the story along or contributing to the characters’ journeys in any significant way. As a result, much of the series’ emotional impact is lost. Not quite recommended. – Melinda Beasi
Triage X, Vol. 1 | Shouji Sato | Yen Press – As a manga reviewer, I sometimes have a stubborn streak that compels me to try any new Vol. 1, despite the fact that the cover, description, and demographic scream “this is not for you.” And indeed, Triage X is not for me. This does not mean it doesn’t have an audience. The creator also does the art for High School of the Dead, which has done very well for Yen. And while this title lacks zombies, it certainly has a lot of action and cheeky fanservice. The plot is quite similar to Until Death Do Us Part, another title Yen is releasing. A group of vigilantes go after those that are above the law, while the law tries to figure out a way to survive both of them. But unfortunately, the fanservice is so blatant in Triage X that I can’t help but think that the only reason Kadokawa approved it is for the breasts. If you like breasts, go for it. Otherwise, there’s better vigilante manga.-Sean Gaffney