This week, Sean, Michelle, & Anna look at recent releases from Seven Seas, Viz Media, Yen Press, and Kodansha Comics.
Alice in the Country of Clover: Ace of Hearts | By QuinRose and Mamenosuke Fujimaru | Seven Seas – This wasn’t quite as bad as Bloody Twins, but it’s right up there. I’ve said before that the Alice manga is best when it’s not focusing on romance, and this isn’t that; it’s pretty much Alice falling for Ace, and getting lost a lot with him. There’s some attempt at working with Ace’s psychoses – the friendlier she is to everyone, the less he likes her, which would not bode well for them if this relationship lasted longer than half a book. But for the most part this is simply ‘the Ace ending’ for those who read the visual novel. It’s not even big enough to fill the book – about 60% is Ace, and the rest of the volume is two Crimson Empire stories. Which are also dull. Honestly, even if you’re an Ace fan, there are other books that use him better than this one. – Sean Gaffney
A Devil and Her Love Song, Vol. 9 | By Miyoshi Tomori | Viz Media – I enjoy each new volume of A Devil and Her Love Song, but the reliance on melodramatic tropes keeps it from becoming a favorite. Moments when the drama comes from the characters themselves are the best parts of the series. The highlight of this particular volume is when Maria is able to convince her group of friends to welcome fellow outcast Shintaro, making him profoundly happy. But then there are moments when the drama comes from something trope-y, like that ubiquitous shojo heroine predator, the random thug on the street (a.k.a. “the sidewalk cretin”), one of whom is responsible for causing Maria to miss Shin’s concert hall performance. This plot device is so contrived that it takes away from what’s going on with the characters, which seems to be that Maria’s developing a newfound appreciation for Yusuke. In the end, I really like this series, but I don’t love it. – Michelle Smith
Fairy Tail, Vol. 27 | By Hiro Mashima | Kodansha Comics – Last volume had the villains winning everything, now it’s time for Fairy Tail’s comeback. Sometimes this is hilarious (everything about Natsu and Lucy’s teamup is one of the funniest things in this entire manga, and Mashima has shows he can draw funny faces better than almost anyone), and sometimes it’s badass (Loke’s fight with Capricorn, and how it ties into both Lucy and her late mother). Possibly the most interesting fight, though, is one that was changed at the last minute. Juvia’s battle with Meredy was originally supposed to be a big water powers beatdown, but after the Tohoku Earthquake and tsunami Mashima changed it to what we see here, showing that love and acceptance is what is really needed. It’s nice and heartwarming, and fits with Fairy Tail’s basic tenets. – Sean Gaffney
Goong: The Royal Palace, Vol. 9 | by Park SoHee | Yen Press – I enjoy this manhwa, but I stopped following it actively. I stumbled across a bunch of the omnibus volumes at my local library and decided to dive in again. Were the characters’ lips always so bee-stung? In this contemporary story of a modern-day Korea with an active royal family commoner turned princess Chae-Kyung ponders the possibility of announcing her intention to divorce her royal prince Shin even though she loves him. There’s plenty of intrigue and manipulation in this frothy soap opera, as Shin gets framed and the Queen Mother tries dosing the young couple with herbs in order to hasten the appearance of a royal grandchild. I enjoy the way the art turns lavish whenever the royals are wearing more traditional Korean garb. There should be plenty of drama and intrigue in the volumes ahead! – Anna N
Skip Beat!, Vol. 31 | by Yoshiki Nakamura | Viz Media – I know I’ve mentioned before that the Heel siblings storyline in the current arc fills me with almost unholy levels of fangirl glee. This latest installment of Skip Beat is just as engrossing as the last. Ren has always been a bit of a handsome and mysterious cypher but Kyoko is gradually realizing the depths of his issues and trying to help him out however she can. A storyline about an actor confronting his inner demons might not seem exciting, but Nakamura’s dynamic and stylish art combined with the fact that Kyoko and Ren seem to be drawing closer together is plenty to satisfy fans of this series. – Anna N
Strobe Edge, Vol. 5 | By Io Sakisaka | Viz Media – Well, I was not expecting that! Interesting! But even before the unexpected twist, there was a lot to like about this volume of Strobe Edge. With Ren keeping his distance, Ninako ends up spending more time in the company of Ando, a former playboy who has confessed his love for her. I really appreciate that he’s become a fully fledged character instead of a simple rival, and we learn a good deal about his past in this volume. There are also many changes going around, and various characters afflicted with longing, and really it’s just so great and somehow refreshing. This is what good shoujo drama is like when you don’t have to result to tired old clichés. Yes, A Devil and Her Love Song, I’m talking to you. It actually reminds me a little of We Were There, which is high praise indeed. Go read Strobe Edge. – Michelle Smith