This week, Sean and Michelle look at recent releases from Kodansha Comics, Yen Press, VIZ Media, and Vertical, Inc.
Aron’s Absurd Armada, Vol. 1 | By MiSun Kim | Yen Press – So, the plot: stupid nobleman coerces his bodyguard to play pirates with him and they gradually acquire a misfit crew. I’m pretty hard to please where comedies are concerned, but Aron’s Absurd Armada delivers the right amount of the promised absurdity to appeal to me. The fact that I started snickering on the character introductions page was a good sign, and there were several bits thereafter that amused me. I like the fact that, though primarily composed in a 4-panel format, there’s actually a sequential story (however silly) being told, so it doesn’t feel like merely a series of jokes. It all flows quite well, actually. Sure, some parts are less funny than others—I particularly fail to find humor in the crew of marines who’re suffering through a similarly incompetent leader—but it’s quite fun on the whole, and I’m looking forward to volume two. – Michelle Smith
GTO: 14 Days in Shonan, Vol. 6 | By Toru Fujisawa | Vertical, Inc. – Again, the best thing about this series is how much of an inspiration Onizuka is. His actual actions may not help much – his plan to get Keiichi in good with his girlfriend’s parents is typical Onizuka, i.e. wildly over the top and idiotic – but his never say die determination lets people he comes into contact with find their own inner strengths. This can sometimes even surprise him – when Ayame goes after the yakuza at the start of this volume, he’s the one that’s nervous. But towards the end we find more and more of the White Swan is in his corner. Of course, they’re dealing with the messed-up twins – well, messed-up twin, as it turns out that they’re not two of a kind. So the cast of this series may not be enough – we have to bring in some ringers from GTO proper. Absolutely cannot wait for Vol. 7! -Sean Gaffney
Miles Edgeworth: Ace Attorney Investigations, Vol. 3 | By Kenji Kuroda and Kazuo Maekawa | Kodansha Comics – It would appear I was not the only one annoyed at the complete lack of any Ace Attorney cast other than Miles and Gumshoe. Ema Skye makes an appearance here, coming home from the U.S. for the holiday break. (My guess is she’s about 19-20 here, putting these cases in the gap between Phoenix being framed and the Apollo Justice games – which helps explain the lack of other regulars.) The writers may have played the DS game starring her before they wrote this volume, in fact – the 2nd case has some similarities to her debut. As seems to be a habit with these releases, the first case in the volume is merely OK, but the 2nd is more gripping. Everything is still light as air, but for Ace Attorney fans, this volume is another win.-Sean Gaffney
Natsume’s Book of Friends, Vol. 13 | By Yuki Midorikawa | VIZ Media – “I’ll be waiting here at noon tomorrow. If you’re not here, I’ll come by the house.” That sounds innocent enough, doesn’t it? But it’s the threat implied—that exorcist Matoba will tell the relatives Natsume’s living with all about his involvement in the dangerous supernatural world if he doesn’t cooperate—that forces Natsume to attend a meeting of exorcists with Matoba in order to root out the person who’s been attacking them. The ensuing chapters are good though fairly straightforward. I was most captivated by the pair of side stories depicting Natsume as seen through the eyes of a couple of classmates. Midorikawa skillfully creates full personalities for these guys while offering us something new about our protagonist. It’s her skill and the overall warmth and loveliness of the series that left me feeling like this volume was over way too soon. – Michelle Smith
Psyren, Vol. 7 | By Toshiaki Iwashiro | VIZ Media – About 2/3 of the way through this series, the main characters are pulled back into the Psyren World, to their great frustration. I share this frustration, as I find the constant fights and posturing in the apocalyptic ruins to be far less interesting than the attempts to change the future in the present. Indeed, the future is already changed – we see the Elmore Wood kids get killed off again on the DVD, but in a different way than they did at first. I’m simply more invested in the present-day plots, and the villains being stock caricatures is not helping at all. I will admit to being amused by the solution to ‘I am being a mook because my sister is in a coma’ – fix the coma, problem solved. But if the majority of the next volume takes place in Psyren World, I’m not really looking forward to it unless something revelatory happens. (coughforeshadowingcough) -Sean Gaffney
Soulless: The Manga, Vol. 2 | By Gail Carriger and Rem | Yen Press – The second volume of Soulless finds the supernatural denizens of London sporadically “afflicted with normality.” Getting to the bottom of the matter involves taking a dirigible ride to Scotland, with various attempts on Alexia’s life along the way and some new, though possibly untrustworthy, acquaintances along for the journey. In some ways, this is a stronger volume than the first, with a mystery plot that’s better integrated into the characters’ storyline, though I do miss the banter between Alexia and Conall from their courtship days and the resolution of the mystery is decidedly lame. The introduction of Madame Lefoux, however, is the real highlight. A French inventor who dresses like a gent (complete with top hat), Lefoux’s a scene-stealer whose flirtatious attentions provoke a definite response in Alexia. I hope we’ll be seeing more of her (and, of course, more Soulless)! – Michelle Smith