This week, Sean, Michelle, & Anna look at recent and upcoming releases from Seven Seas, Vertical, Inc., and Viz Media.
Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz, Vol. 6 | By QuinRose and Mamenosuke Fujimaru | Seven Seas – Despite the fact that once again this is half the main story and half a side story, it feels like a complete book because the side story also features Alice and Boris, rather than Crimson Empire. As for the main story, as always Ace steals every scene that he’s in. Ace and Boris contrast very well here, given that Boris, despite his jealousy, just wants Alice to be happy and at peace. Whereas, as Ace says flat out, he finds Alice most interesting when she’s stressed, vacillating, and indecisive. If you recall that this manga is sourced from a visual novel, this works quite well: Boris (and some of the others) want Alice to finish the game and find an ending, Ace wants anything but that. We’ll see how this resolves in 7, the final volume. – Sean Gaffney
A Devil And Her Love Song, Vol. 11 | By Miyoshi Tomori | Viz Media – I had thought that the issues with Maria’s voice would be easily solved at the start of this volume, but nope. This volume turns out to be the one where most of the plot ends regarding Maria’s past are tied up, as we see that the tragedy in her past that has caused her such pain has also effected everyone else connected to that tragedy – her father, her grandparents, everyone. I found the way the last name “Cross” was tied into the plot to be a bit mind-numbingly coincidental, but hey, it’s a shoujo manga. So with Maria’s issues now mostly resolved, and Shin finally realizing that he can’t keep using his hand with it injured like that, we wrap up here, right? Wrong. Two volumes to go, and the cliffhanger for this one, with Maria saying “nothing can possibly go wrong now”, is very ominous. – Sean Gaffney
Happy Marriage?!, Vol. 2 | By Maki Enjoji | Viz Media – The line between miscommunication being a necessary tool to tell the plot of your shoujo manga and miscommunication being the last straw that makes your reader give up and drop the title can be very fine indeed, and the fact that I’m only 2 volumes into a 10-volume series and already vacillating on it doesn’t bode well. Not that I don’t understand the characters. Despite being husband and wife, it’s a paper marriage, so there’s that sense of ‘I should give her some space’ on Hokuto’s part – which is easy for him anyway, as he’s the sort to be very subtle and oblique. Meanwhile, Chiwa’s idea of working for another company isn’t bad, but one run by a former flame? That’s bad. This is the volume where Happy Marriage?! had to make its plot longer, and sometimes you can see the stretching. – Sean Gaffney
Midnight Secretary, Vol. 2 | by Tomu Ohmi | Viz Media – I’m still enjoying this supernatural romance about Kaya, an unusually dedicated secretary and her developing feelings for her vampire boss Kyohei. This volume centers around Kaya acknowledging her feelings for her boss and deciding to pull away, because there’s probably not much future for a woman with extra tasty blood and a man who regards human women largely as snacks. This doesn’t go well, as Kyohei likes to have Kaya around for more reasons than he is willing to admit to himself. The woman brimming with emotions and her emotionally withholding target of affection is a fairly common romance scenario, but the moody art, emotional turmoil, and paranormal elements combine to make this manga very enjoyable. – Anna N.
Sickness Unto Death, Vol. 2 | By Hikaru Asada and Takahiro Seguchi | Vertical, Inc. – Well, that didn’t go the way I expected at all. Which was, of course, the point. One of the best things about this serieds is the way it sets up situations and then pulls the rug out from under you. There’s also some really terrific analysis of coping with trauma, and I like how it shows Kazuma trying to help as a therapist but still being far too close to the situation (there’s really an awful lot of sex in this book, probably to attract Young Animal readers). As for the ending, I found it rather disquieting, and it made me ask lots of questions I’m not sure I wanted the answers to. Which I’m pretty sure is absolutely 100% intentional. I’m not sure this is a series that can be easily loved, but I think it has a high reread quality, and I’m very pleased Vertical put it out. – Sean Gaffney
Strobe Edge, Vol. 7 | by Io Sakisaka | Viz Media – This is really one of my favorite currently running shoujo series, with sympathetic characters and an engaging supporting cast that helps divert me from noticing that the relationship between naive Ninako and super-popular and enigmatic Ren is developing very slowly. Now that Ren is no longer in his previous relationship and Ninako, Ren, and Ando are all in the same classroom at school the potential for love triangle developments is high. This volume focuses a bit more on Sayuri and her old boyfriend, who it turns out was Yutaro, Much of the volume deals with Ninako’s struggles with continuing to relate to Ren as a friend only, while Sayuri and Yutaro finally achieve a bit of unexpected but welcome closure. – Anna N
Sweet Rein, Vol. 1 | By Sakura Tsukuba | Viz Media – If the name Sakura Tsukuba looks familiar, that’s because CMX published two of her series (Land of the Blindfolded and Penguin Revolution) back in the day. And that probably explains why Sweet Rein feels kind of like CMX shoujo to me. It’s a short series (complete in three volumes, it looks like) that works for all ages and has some fluffy fantasy elements, but which is still a little off the beaten path. For example, the leads in this series are a bonded Santa/reindeer pair. Yup. So far, drama comes from sad little kids with cancer in need of miracles and bishounen grandpa ghosts warning the reindeer boy that what he feels for his master isn’t genuine love. It may inspire mockery, but the overall feel so far is kind of cozy and old-school and the chibi reindeer are insanely cute. I think that’s enough to sustain me for three volumes. – Michelle Smith