This week, Sean and Melinda check out recent releases from Kodasha Comics, Seven Seas, and Viz Media.
Cage of Eden, Vol. 11 | By Yoshinobu Yamada | Kodansha Comics – If you’re looking for a volume of Cage of Eden that contains everything the series has going for it, this may be a good choice. There’s cute backstory between the lead ‘couple-but-not-a-couple’ teens, there’s mystery regarding some disappearances that has a clever solution, there’s killer animals that take out a couple of our remaining kids, and there’s another bathing scene showing off naked girl’s bodies. We get a few new characters as well, including a friend of Akira’s who they’ve been searching for since Vol. 2, and a perverted monk with a tendency towards lolicon. As ever, Cage of Eden is a lot of fun eye candy and action adventure, but still has a casual sexism that makes it hard to recommend. Like a lot of Shonen Magazine series, really. Recommended to those who know its type. – Sean Gaffney
Crimson Empire: Circumstances to Serve a Noble, Vol. 2 | By QuinRose and Hazuki Futaba | Seven Seas – Crimson Empire’s strongest selling point continues to be its heroine, who’s easily the most interesting of its huge extended cast. Sheila not only gets to be a killer assassin maid, but she’s more experienced in the ways of the world than Alice is, so is much better at dry humor and teasing others. Unlike the Alice books, I find myself more interested in the romance between her and Prince Justin than I do all the machiavellian politics. Part of this may be simply that I still have trouble telling folks apart – I kept flipping to the character guide at the start, and even then the number of long, black-haired men led me to confuse one or two. Still, I’m more interested in this series than I was after Vol. 1, and it certainly works better in volume format than as short stories in the Alice books. – Sean Gaffney
Demon Love Spell, Vol. 4 | By Mayu Shinjo | Viz Media – Despite my momentary reservations about this series’ last volume, Demon Love Spell continues to charm me to an unprecedented extent for this kind of comedic romance. In fact, it’s the comedy that keeps me coming back, which I find endlessly surprising, especially given how over-the-top things begin right from the get-to in this volume. Don’t get me wrong, I love to laugh, but my taste for excess generally applies to supernatural fantasy only, while “cracktastic” romantic comedies typically leave me cold. Demon Love Spell, I suppose, draws upon the best of both worlds, as its outrageous humor creates an atmosphere in which we can just as easily invest ourselves in a story about a rapidly-aging baby born from a giant peach as we can laugh off the lecherous advances of the series’ suave-yet-hapless love interest. Shinjo hits all the right marks. Still recommended. – Melinda Beasi
Fairy Tail, Vol. 29 | By Hiro Mashima | Kodansha Comics – The cliches in this volume are almost a drinking game. Ultear’s tragic flashback past all but ensures she’ll eventually turn good; our heroes all team up to take out the big boss with their combined powers; and when that doesn’t work, a face from the past arrives to kick ass and show everyone he’s on their side again. But it’s all done with such verve, fun and energy that you’re pretty much willing to forgive Fairy Tail its unoriginality. Things look to be wrapping up pretty soon… we think, though there’s still Zeref to worry about, and I suspect that we’re still a ways away from the end of this arc. But man, check out those fights! Those poses! Those shouts of “Nobody could have survived that!” This title is as shounen as it gets. – Sean Gaffney
Sakarea: Undying Love, Vol. 2 | By Mitsuru Hattori | Kodansha Comics – A lot of harem series tend to balance all the fanservicey romance with some other element, be it teaching magic, getting killed over and over again in a time loop, etc. With Sankarea, it’s horror. And not just the “zombie cliche” horror that you’d expect, although there is that. Rea’s family is truly unhinged, with her mother’s uncaring apathy serving as a contrast to her father’s incestuous possessiveness. (The scene where we see that the only reason they’re still married is she loves his body – or one part of his body – is particularly awful.) And let’s not forget the attempted murder. Luckily, we have Rea and Chihiro contrasting that (sorry, Wanko, you aren’t important enough yet), and they’re sweet and charming, even as there’s still a dark undercurrent behind everything. Harem Horror, not Hammer Horror. – Sean Gaffney
Strobe Edge, Vol. 6 | By Io Sakisaka | Viz Media – It’s a testament to the addictive nature of this series that my main reaction to this installment was genuine distress at discovering that the fifty or so pages I thought I had left as I reached book’s final quarter were actually an unrelated short story. So great was my distress that I could not even read it. Such is the power of serialized shoujo, but what’s remarkable about Strobe Edge is how far it has come since its first, trite volume. As Ren reels from his recent breakup, heightened tension in his relationship with our besotted heroine, Ninako, is no certainly surprise to anyone (least of all, Ninako or Ren). But the biggest revelations in this volume revolve around Ren and Ando, whose strained friendship nears its breaking point, with unexpected results. It’s complicated, moving, and downright refreshing—not a word I’d have associated with this series early on. Recommended. – Melinda Beasi