This week, Sean, MJ, and Michelle look at recent releases from Seven Seas, Yen Press, Viz Media, Kodansha Comics, and Vertical, Inc.
Alice in the Country of Joker: Circus and Liar’s Game, Vol. 2 | By QuinRose and Mamenosuke Fujimaru | Seven Seas – Despite the cover showing a seductive moment between Alice and Peter White, there’s less romance in this series than ever before – and the series is all the better for it, as it’s allowed to dig a bit deeper into the darkness that haunts the entire Alice series. The cast make it perfectlyu clear that their goal is simply to keep Alice distracted and not thinking of returning to her world – and that having her fall for one of them is merely a means to that end. But Joker is a wildcard – at least one of his personalities is – and he’s just as determined to dredge up all the things everyone wants Alice to forget – particularly her older sister. This is possibly one of the more twisted spinoffs of the Alice series, and thus one of the most intriguing. – Sean Gaffney
Are You Alice?, Vol. 1 | By Ikumi Katagiri and Ai Ninomiya | Yen Press – Given the number of titles that currently match this description, one simply has to ask, do we really need another manga series involving characters from Alice in Wonderland? If that series is Are You Alice?, the answer is… I really don’t know. The premise is this: bishonen “Alice” falls into the clutches of several more bishonen playing roles like the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat. In order to win his freedom, Alice must kill the White Rabbit, as per rules set in place by the (bishonen) Queen of Hearts. Violence and BL subtext ensues. Though there are some intriguing aspects to this series’ first volume (for instance, former “Alice” candidates have lost their identities once they’d failed), it’s difficult not to see it as an excuse to dress up a bunch of pretty men in pretty, pretty costumes. Whether there’s really more to it remains to be seen. – MJ
Arisa, Vol. 10 | By Natsumi Ando | Kodansha Comics – With the King’s identity revealed at the end of volume nine—and coming as no great surprise—we turn now to some explanation of how things came to be as they are. Arisa has awoken, and after a period of coldness that her twin, Tsubasa, thaws with her shoujo heroine powers, begins telling her sister the truth about the origins of the wish-granting sovereign of Class 2-B. I can’t say that the explanation is particularly plausible or anything, but at least it offers us a break from characters suffering from amnesia, falling down stairs, or finding themselves in other positions of peril thanks to over-the-top evil villains. For a series that started off promisingly, Arisa became kind of snickerworthy in its later volumes. I’m still going to see this one through to the end, but I doubt this’ll be something I’m interested in rereading in the future. – Michelle Smith
Cage of Eden, Vol. 10 | By Yoshinobu Yamada | Kodansha Comics – While not spoiling anything specific for this volume, it’s worth noting that after so many volumes where the only characters who die are minor students we don’t really care about, here we see both the death of a major character as well as the non-death of a villainous character I was totally expecting to die. In a series like Cage of Eden, keeping the suspense and surprises coming is the entire reason for reading the series, so that’s definitely a good thing. Well, I admit many may also be reading this for the fanservice, and this volume gives them a long, involved bathing scene with lots of nude women. The cliffhanger teases a couple of answers to our questions, but in general we’re still just watching everyone battle huge animals. But really, this volume is about (spoiler)’s death, and they died well. – Sean Gaffney
Demon Love Spell, Vol. 3 | By Mayu Shinjo | Viz Media – So I’ll admit that, despite my immediate adoration of Demon Love Spell, previous experiences have kept me on edge, and some part of me has waited fearfully for that thing to happen—you know the thing—that moment when I’d be suddenly expected to find a super-controlling love interest super-duper sexy. I mention this now, because it almost happened. There’s a moment early on, when hot demon Kagura, jealous as all hell, demands that heroine Miko “Shut up!” and “Stop arguing,” and in her mind, she apologizes. My heart sank, truly. I thought I was done for. Fortunately, the moment passed quickly and never repeated itself; furthermore, the rest of the volume is just as charming and funny as the rest of the series has been so far, and I found myself taking phone photos of particularly charming moments. Don’t scare me like that, Demon Love Spell. Please? – MJ
GTO: 14 Days in Shonan, Vol. 9 | By Toru Fujisawa | Vertical, Inc. – I admit, there were two things that disappointed me in this final volume. One of the bad guys changed his stripes in a very convenient way, and I’m not sure there was enough buildup to make it work. The other is the 2nd half – the GTO story proper finished halfway through, and the rest is devoted to the Twins from an earlier arc dispensing Onizuka-style justice in their own high school. It’s just not as much fun watching them as it is watching Onizuka, and feels more like a typical Shonen Magazine fanservice chapter. But that still leaves lots of Onizuka being awesome, and a big chase, and a jetpack out of nowhere, and all the other fun ludicrousness we’ve known from this series. And, in the end, most of the kids get a happy ending. Which is all we really wanted. (Romantic resolution? Ha!) – Sean Gaffney
Welcome to the Erotic Bookstore, Vol. 2 | By Pon Watanabe | Yen Press – This was an intriguing experiment from Yen, and I’m glad they put it out. That said, I feel it’s safe to say that one volume of this series was absolutely enough. The second volume has less about the lives of the heroine and the various employees around her, and more examination of customers and their kinks. Including some fetishes that I’d really rather not get to know the reason behind, thanks very much. The message here is positive – as long as it’s not hurting anyone, sex is a wonderful and varied thing. But after a while the plotless gag format took its toll on me, and I was sort of flipping quickly towards the ending. If you’re a completist, then by all means pick this up. But for those who were simply curious, I’m pretty sure Vol. 1 will meet all your needs.. – Sean Gaffney