This week, Sean, Anna, Melinda, & Michelle look at recent releases from Yen Press, Viz Media, & Kodansha Comics.
Accel World, Vol. 1 | By Reki Kawahara, HIMA, and Hiroyuki Aigamo | Yen Press – When I reviewed the Sword Art Online manga, I was fortunate that I had not read the initial light novel first, so I was able to enjoy it for what it was, then read the novel and see additional depth. With Accel World the novel came out first, an the manga can’t help but suffer next to it. Not that there’s anything particularly bad about this adaptation; I dislike Haruyuki’s character design, but that’s on the original author and designer. It gives visuals to a static light novel. But nothing is really added to make this essential, so if you’re a fan of the Accel World light novels, I’d recommend just sticking to them. This is OK, but it doesn’t grab you and say “read me too!”. – Sean Gaffney
Food Wars, Vol. 2 | By Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki | Viz Media – I felt a bit ambivalent about this series after reading the first volume, because I enjoy manga about food battles a bunch, but I’m just less of a fan of random nakedness and upskirt shots. The second volume of this series shows Soma, the brash hero and champion of neighborhood Japanese cooking move into a rundown dorm with a ragtag band of roommates, challenge a top student to a Donburi cook-off, and continue to make people’s cooking fall off with the power of his cooking. Soma is set up for additional challenges in upcoming volumes. I found myself still on the fence about this title, because while I do enjoy the cooking bits, I also find myself really distracted and wondering how these culinary students will function in the real world if their knowledge of basic food safety is so lacking that they think cooking beef in a bikini is a good idea. – Anna N
Goong, Vol. 16 | By Park SoHee | Yen Press – There are few slow releases I look forward to with as much verve as Goong, and this volume reminds me very much why. Relentlessly (and unapologetically) soapy as this series may be, it still manages to be refreshing in its own way, time after time. Volume sixteen seems particularly so, as its characters aggressively push through the layers of misunderstanding that have served as the backbone of the series’ plot for… well, pretty much forever, in order to finally get at some real truth. Even cowardly Yul gets in on some of this truth-seeking, setting up the story’s teen royals to eventually (hopefully) blow apart their family’s messed up legacy for good. As always, I’m grateful for this series’ omnibus-sized chunks of soapy goodness, and I eagerly wait for more. – Melinda Beasi
My Little Monster, Vol. 4 | By Robico | Kodansha Comics – A good 80% of all shoujo manga licensed for the North American market is about kids in high school, but for the most part it’s rare that I see a cast who are hampered by immaturity, puberty, and a desperate need for life experience as the cast of My Little Monster. I’d said in the first volume that I felt Haru was too dangerous, and that feeling hasn’t gone away, as his jealousy is starting to lead to subtle death threats. Shizuku’s inability to communicate properly is shown to be a family trait, and Natsume just has massive trust issues as well as a big crush that may or may not be love. This is the sort of cast that makes a long-running series not repeat itself, even if they can frustrate. – Sean Gaffney
My Little Monster, Vol. 4 | By Robico | Kodansha Comics – I’ve praised My Little Monster before for its characterization, but I really do think it can’t be mentioned enough. Even though the previous volume featured the school festival and this one covers Christmas and New Year’s—overused shoujo tropes all—because the characters are well developed, it feels fresh and interesting. Shizuku has confessed again to Haru, but his inability to accept her refusal to give up studying (and cram classes with a guy who likes her) manifests in some potentially disturbing ways. Shizuku is largely ignorant of these for the most part, but I wonder if we’ll be moving into darker territory soon. I also really enjoyed the supporting characters in this volume, particularly Yamaken (the guy who likes Shizuku despite himself) and Natsume (who’s struggling with romantic feelings of her own). This was probably the best volume of the series yet! – Michelle Smith
Soul Eater, Vol. 22 | By Atsushi Ohkubo | Yen Press – This volume consists of a big old melee fight, so I don’t quite have enough to say about it to warrant a full review. Not that this isn’t excellent; the villains may be mooks, but they’re infinite mooks, so eventually our heroes will wear down and die. Stein is allowing his madness to drive him to a certain extent, which makes him formidable but also dangerous and worrying. But most of all, there’s Maka confronting Crona, and Crona’s admitting that after killing Medusa, there’s no turning back. Maka still plans to beat the tar out of Crona, but I think this volume tells us there will not be any easy redemption here, and that we may see more sacrifices soon. Dark yet endlessly fascinating. – Sean Gaffney