This week, Sean, MJ, Anna, and Michelle look at recent releases from VIZ Media, Yen Press, and Kodansha Comics.
Ai Ore!, Vol. 8 | By Mayu Shinjo | VIZ Media – Ai Ore! is now on hold in Japan while Shinjo works at other projects, which honestly is fine with me, as I’m starting to get really bored with these leads. Rolling back the canon so that they are not sexually active did get rid of some of the more rapey aspects of Akira, which I can only approve of, but it also made him slightly duller. As for Mizuki, I have to regard her as a failure even compared to other weak Shinjo heroines. When the best part of the manga for her is having a mental breakdown at losing her guitar—for 30 pages—you know something’s wrong. That said, there’s nothing actively offensive here like Vol. 1 had. It’s cute and fluffy, and mostly tame. Which is great for generic shoujo manga fans, but a disappointment to those of us who want anything but boring pablum from this artist. It’s sad that I preferred it when it offended me yet kept my interest.– Sean Gaffney
Bakuman, Vol. 18 | By Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata | VIZ Media – With the end of this series quickly approaching, Mashiro and Takagi come very close to achieving their dreams, which is actually more gratifying than I expected. Even Mashiro’s ill-conceived romance now feels like something to root for (though the manga fan in me still balks at the idea of an anime adaptation as his ultimate goal). Now that the series’ leads have become truly likable, it’s much easier to revel in their successes, and this volume offers up a lot to celebrate. Even Hiramaru’s strange romance gets a satisfying boost in this volume, and I came out pretty much adoring Aoki, which was a real surprise for me. An inside look at assistant politics adds excitement as well. Though I’ve long established myself as an addicted fan of this series, it’s nice to see it push through towards the end with such strength and verve. Still recommended.– MJ
BTOOOM!, Vol. 1 | By Junya Inoue | Yen Press – Battle Royale has a lot to answer for, even though I don’t think it anticipated creating its own genre. But “Survival horror” is very big now, and Yen’s High School of the Dead sells well enough that they’ve bought two more series in a similar vein. BTOOOM! is the first, where a NEET who is master of the gaming world but a failure at getting a real job finds himself on a deserted island with only a bunch of bombs and people trying to kill him. He’s also lost his memory, which is helpful as it allows others to explain the plot to him in detail. There’s a hot girl I’ve no doubt we’ll learn more about soon, and a few villains running around. But for the most part, this gives you lots of action, lots of explosions, and the occasional examination of morals surrounded by “who will die next” tension. It’s not breaking any new ground, but it’s perfectly decent at doing what it wants to do.– Sean Gaffney
BTOOOM!, Vol. 1 | By Junya Inoue | Yen Press – While BTOOOM! might not be able to claim the most original premise ever, it is nonetheless fairly entertaining. Unemployed Ryouta Sakamoto, a 22-year-old living with his long-suffering mother, is the best of the best at the online game BTOOOM!, even though his real life is in pretty bad shape. When he wakes, disoriented, on a remote island, he gradually realizes that he’s been drafted into a real-life version of the game, with deadly stakes. Even though a lot of what happens is completely predictable to the reader, and some of Ryouta’s anguished faces as he deliberates moral questions are actually kind of comedic, it’s still a quick and reasonably fun read. I could’ve done without the buxom competitor and the obligatory focus on her crotch, of course, but you can’t win ’em all. – Michelle Smith
Cage of Eden, Vol. 9 | By Yoshinobu Yamada | Kodansha Comics – Speaking of survival horror, it’s time for a new volume of Cage of Eden, which deals with a lot of the same moral lessons. In particular, Zaji and Mariya coming to blows (well, OK, Mariya getting beaten up) over whether they should abandon Kanako, who has been kidnapped by a King Kong-alike. Mariya points out that they’re facing a lethal and intelligent beast, and have to put the safety of the whole party over just one person. Zaji says screw that. This is shounen manga, so Zaji is, of course, correct. Meanwhile, there is a brief reminder that these are a bunch of puberty-stricken teenagers on a deserted island, with both guys and girls taking a poll for best boyfriend/girlfriend. No surprises to see who wins each side. The fanservice continues to be utterly blatant, but the series still clips along and provides what readers want.– Sean Gaffney
Fushigi Yugi: Genbu Kaiden, Vol. 11 | By Yuu Watase | VIZ Media – Oh, the angst! The pain! The total awesomeness! With only one volume left of this fantasy-adventure to go, I can’t help being torn between joy and grief. This is unsurprisingly an action-packed installment, filled with difficult battles, epic emotional drama, and some genuine tragedy. And if some of the series’ primary conflicts are a bit too easily resolved, it’s pretty difficult to calm down one’s adrenaline long enough to notice. Overall, this series offers up a terrific example of the enduring appeal of shoujo adventure stories, and it’s gratifying to see it holding its own alongside the ever-growing stack of high school romances. Now, with the Qu-Dong army approaching and Takiko’s life hanging in the balance, the agonizing wait for volume twelve begins! Highly recommended. – MJ
Jiu Jiu, Vol. 4 | By Touya Tobina | VIZ Media – I could feel my interest in this title start to wane a bit in the third volume, and I’m sad to say that state of affairs is continuing with the fourth. The plot wrinkle for this volume is a sudden Jiu Jiu exchange where Takamichi’s familiars Snow and Night are sent away and replaced with alternates. Takamichi’s reaction to being away from her beloved companions is a sudden increase in her crafting habits, producing far too many dog plushies. Tobina’s art is as stylish as ever and there are some quirky humorous parts of the story, but I’m still not emotionally invested in what might happen to these characters. I’m sure this series has plenty of appeal to some readers because it is generally well-executed and quirky enough to be interesting, but unfortunately I am not one of them. – Anna N
Oresama Teacher, Vol. 13 | By Izumi Tsubaki | VIZ Media – The cover of this title is a lie! It shows Super Bun on the cover, but Mafuyu spends most of her time in this volume as her male alter ego Natsuo. The fact that the juvenile delinquent heroine of this series has secret identities both as a spastic bunny superhero and as a man is why my interest in this comedy manga shows no signs of slowing down even at the thirteenth volume. Mafuyu and her team take on a man-hating member of the student council and there’s a bonus appearance by my favorite character Bancho, which always makes me happy. – Anna N
Pandora Hearts, Vol. 14 | By Jun Mochizuki | Yen Press – Well, wow. I suspected that this volume would be dramatic, but despite my open adoration of this series, I didn’t actually expect it to be so well-executed. Volume fourteen opens with a fairly large plot twist, and then proceeds (with uncharacteristic coherence) to escalate from there. But the greatest joys in this volume are to be found in its relationships, particularly as concerns Vincent, Ada, Gilbert, and Break. That there is enough room for such careful emotional nuance amidst all this series’ action and (girl-aimed) fan service continues to be surprising, but gratifying indeed. That this series is still ongoing means that we’re still in for a long haul, but Mochizuki just continues to get better, and she’s quickly making up for her plotting issues early on. Still recommended with unabashed fangirl glee. – MJ
Travis Anderson saysMarch 5, 2013 at 1:25 am
Yeah, I have to admit, I found myself really rooting for Mashiro and Azuki towards the end, despite having been pretty meh about them the rest of the time.
Aylinn saysMarch 5, 2013 at 2:05 pm
I think in the past volumes of Pandora Hearts Mochizuki merely laid down the foundations for the story. And volume 14 is the stage where the true fun begins.
I feel sorry for Eliot, but at least he doesn’t have enough time to sink into depression and brood over what he has done. In a way it’s an act of mercy.
r saysMarch 5, 2013 at 3:23 pm
Aylinn, please be aware of what happens in what volume and try harder to avoid spoilers.