This week, Michelle, Sean, and Anna look at recent releases from Viz Media, Seven Seas, and Yen Press.
Blood Lad, Vol. 3 | By Yuuki Kodama | Yen Press –Blood Lad remains the frontrunner for the “Surprise Favorite of 2013” award in my book. True, I could not possibly be less interested in the machinations of Staz’s dastardly older brother, Braz, but there are plenty of characters that I unexpectedly like quite a lot, including Staz’s little sister, Liz, who is like the Yotsuba of the demon world, and the slouchy, laid-back dragon in this volume, who ends up steering our leads onto a new and intriguing path. And true, the fanservice is not my style, but the humor usually is. Also, I especially like that the series goes places I don’t expect—we begin the volume with Fuyumi (the ghost of a human) having been kidnapped, and I was all set for some demon power struggle to ensue, but that is actually not where things go at all. I look forward to more! – Michelle Smith
Demon Love Spell, Vol. 3 | By Mayu Shinjo | Viz Media – I have to admit, Shinjo is doing a really good job making me sympathize with the incubus here, particularly in the first half of this volume. In particular, the confrontation between Kagura and Miko regarding her semi-arranged marriage is one of the best scenes so far, really laying out how conflicted Miko is, but also that how she’s handling it is absolutely the wrong way to go about things. As for Kagura, while he admits to pretending to be weaker than he is so that he can get more from Miko, he’s actually being fairly considerate given his creator. I’m not sure if we’ll be seeing his “human” self again, though. The second half is less interesting, but still pretty solid, and shows why these two haven’t gone further in their relationship – Miko’s feelings are still too fragile. Good stuff. – Sean Gaffney
Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends, Vol. 3 | By Yomi Hirasaka and Itachi | Seven Seas – This volume exists pretty much to introduce the rest of the main cast. Maria, the 10-year-old nun who’s somehow supposed to be their faculty advisor, is there to be adorable and brattish, just like a typical 10-year-old, and piss off Kodaka’s little sister. That said, I am so grateful Kadota continues to treat both his sister and Maria as cute little kids rather than the manga getting into lolicon areas. Well done. Then again, with a new character like Rika, is more sexual talk really needed? Adding her to the cast is like throwing a bomb into a room, and while she’ll best be remembered in this volume for the mech-on-mech BL doujinshi she shows the others (which is indeed the highlight of the volume), I’m more interested in what her presence will do to Kodaka, Sena and Yozora’s friendship. – Sean Gaffney
Library Wars, Vol. 10 | by Kiiro Yumi | Viz Media – This volume wraps up the somewhat silly banned words storyline and sends Kasahara on a mission in her hometown to protect freedom of expression in an art exhibit. There are catty librarians and subverted organizational hierarchies to deal with! In addition, Kasahara’s secret of being a combat member of the Library Defense Force may be exposed to her family. The feelings between Kasahara and Dojo are growing, and it is fun seeing how capable and mature Kasahara has become as she manages to handle a bad hazing incident all by herself. This was a solid volume in the Library Wars series, with a bit more emotional depth than usual. – Anna N
Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Vol. 15 | By Hiroshi Shiibashi | Viz Media – The good news it it looks like the Kyoto arc will wrap up with the next volume. The bad news is that it’s still going on in THIS one, meaning there’s a lot of fighting, and a lot of minor villains whose faces I struggle to remember. That said, there is one very interesting thing going on here: the villains appear to be winning. Even if they may not destroy Kyoto, I’m pretty sure they’re going to pull off their resurrection no matter how much Rikuo tries to get Hagoromo-Gitsune to remember who she really is. As for the fights themselves, they look OK, but can be pretty chaotic – and honestly, I’m not reading Nura for the fights. Let’s finish up the equipping and fearing and get back to more slice-of-life yokai plots, as this arc is trying my patience. – Sean Gaffney
Tiger & Bunny, Vol. 2 | By Mizuki Sakakibara, et al. | Viz Media – Although it feels nearly as much like a Saturday morning cartoon as the first volume, the second installment of Tiger & Bunny at least gives readers a few welcome glimpses into the life of a corporate Hero and fleshes out its supporting cast a little bit. Unfortunately, I find practically all of the supporting cast more interesting than the lead characters—veteran Hero Kotetsu (a.k.a. Wild Tiger) and his newcomer partner Barnaby (unwillingly nicknamed “Bunny”)—and their relationship, which is characterized by much repetitive bickering and questioning whether their company-mandated partnership can really work. Even giving Barnaby some dead parents and a shadowy organization to seek out can’t make him compelling, but maybe it means we’re in for a storyline deeper than “Oh noes, a gang of thieves stole a diamond from a museum!” Here’s hoping. – Michelle Smith
Toriko, Vol. 16 | By Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro | Viz Media – As opposed to Nura, Toriko’s arcs are usually just about the right length: Mellow Cola wraps up here, after a suitable amount of fighting and cooking, and we’re off on new adventures. I like the way Komatsu, despite remaining a non-combatant, is being worked into the fights in ways that don’t involve him just constantly being rescued. His use of the ancient cookbook to tell Toriko and Zebra how to stop the Salamander Sphinx. That said, the lack of major females in this series tends to mean that Komatsu serves that purpose as well – it’s hard not to hear Toriko and Zebra arguing about who’ll partner with him and not think of various BL answers. Still, Toriko and Komatsu are more concerned with the return of Starjun, and what evil he’s going to be bringing to the table. Not the best, but still good. – Sean Gaffney