This week, Sean, Anna, & Melinda look at six recent releases from Viz Media.
Blue Exorcist, Vol. 10 | By Kazue Kato | Viz Media – As you would expect after the end of a long arc, a lot of this volume is taking a breather while setting things up for the arcs to come (such as the Gehenna Gate). So we see Rin back to school, and dealing with his normal, non-exorcist classmates. Except it turns out that one of then is starting to not be normal, and it’s slowly driving him insane. There’s a lot more silliness here as well, as our heroes are tasked with taking care of the 7 School Mysteries, all of whom are demonic, of course. Cue cross-dressing ghosts, bitchy grudges, and lots of amusing yet broad shonen gags. There’s also a pile of extras, something becoming quite common in these volumes – a short side-story focusing on Renzo, and lots of 4-koma gags drawn by Kato’s assistants. Not as mind-blowing as the last few volumes, but still fun. – Sean Gaffney
A Devil and Her Love Song, Vol. 9 | By Miyoshi Tomori | Viz Media – The first part of this volume deals with the unwanted attentions of Shintaro, a first-year student who has a crush on Maria. As always, Maria has a way of coming at a problem with a different perspective than other people. While Shintaro’s over the top flirting is annoying to almost everybody, Maria comments that it is just the way he communicates, and gives him the teasing nickname “Eros.” Shin attempts to take a step forward by performing again, but his habit of keeping his distance from Maria to preserve her fragile emotional state may just backfire, as she becomes more and more comfortable with Yusuke being her best friend. The drama in this series continues to be executed with unexpected plot twists, which means that it isn’t getting stale as it nears the 10th volume. – Anna N
Jiu Jiu, Vol. 5 | By Touya Tobina | Viz Media – There is a certain about of subterfuge in this volume that is deliberate on the author’s part. I get that. The true identity of Takayuki, who is the person who father’s Takamichi’s child (not a spoiler, it’s on the cover). That’s fine. The main issue is that everything else doesn’t make sense to me as well. Some series read badly chapter to chapter, and I’m sure that if I read Jiu Jiu in one big 5-volume chunk, I might get more out of it than I did. But I’ve no desire to. This frustrating series kept trying to figure out whether it was epic or not, what its art style was, and if it was going to risk offending people with a romantic pairing that was… problematic, to say the least. It did avoid that last one. But all in all, everything in Jiu Jiu was more annoying than endearing. If you like supernatural stuff, it may be for you. read it all at once, though. – Sean Gaffney
Psyren, Vol. 11 | By Toshiaki Iwashiro | Viz Media – This volume manages to spend a large amount of time focused on the villains, and not a moment of it is wasted. I was apprehensive at first – I like our heroes. But this was easily one of the most terrifying volumes the series has ever had, with the battle on the docks between Miroku and Grigori winning the biggest awards (and killing off the most people – being an innocent bystander in Psyren is lethal). I was also fascinated with the subplot of rescuing Riko, where our heroes totally lose – she’s abducted by the bad guys (she’s probably that mini-boss we saw drawing in Psyren world a while ago). Add this to the continuing issues of Ahega and his father, and Miroku making his threat to the world much earlier than expected, and you have a series that still knows how to ramp up the tension. – Sean Gaffney
Strobe Edge, Vol. 5 | By Io Sakisaka | Viz Media – I suspect that we won’t be seeing that much more of Mayuka after this volume. If that’s the case, what a way to go out. I loved everything about her arc, from her close observation and realization about Ren once her brother points out the obvious, to the acceptance she has regarding her parents’ divorce, and acceptance that’s shocking to her, and how it finally allows her to realize that she has to accept that Ren’s heart has moved on as well. It’s astonishingly mature, and in marked contrast to Ando, whose own past is shown here. No matter how much he acknowledges he’s being immature, I still want to belt him for it. And in the middle we have Ninako, who knows what she doesn’t want, but can’t quite get past not being able to get what she wants. Absolutely riveting shoujo soap. – Sean Gaffney
Tiger & Bunny, Vol. 2 | By Mizuki Sakakibara, Sunrise, & Masafumi Nishida | Viz Media – Manga adaptations of anime series tend to be a sketchy prospect for me. Generally speaking, I’ve found that anime rarely translates well to paper, especially in terms of visual power (see Puella Magi Madoka Magica), and it’s difficult to understand the point. Why take the time to create something that is doomed to be nothing more than a clunky, cardboard version of its source material? Tiger & Bunny‘s weakness, however, may be that it resembles its source just a little too much. It’s breezy, action-packed, and easy to follow—often major stumbling blocks when adapting from the screen—and it’s definitely attractive to the eye. Unfortunately, it’s really not much more, and each volume of manga flies by with the emotional impact of a Saturday morning cartoon. This light, glossy series is undoubtedly fun to watch, but its move to print only accentuates how little lurks beneath the surface shine. – Melinda Beasi