This week, Sean and Anna look at recent releases from Seven Seas, Viz Media, and Vertical Comics.
Alice in the Country of Joker: Circus and Liar’s Game, Vol. 6 | By QuinRose and Mamenosuke Fujimaru | Seven Seas – The artist here is the ‘default’ one for the Alice books, and you can see why they were called in here – this continues to be the best of the many Alice spinoffs. In this new volume, Alice may have finally admitted her feelings for Blood, and gotten ready to tell everyone else, but it’s her attachment to Lorina – still “imprisoned” in the Joker’s cells – that drive the plot, and lead to one of the more dramatic climaxes we’ve had, as Vivaldi goes back to Carroll’s original plot and demands that Alice have her head cut off. An execution is unlikely, but I do find myself wondering if this might be the only Alice manga series with a ‘bad end’. – Sean Gaffney
Arpeggio of Blue Steel, Vol. 2 | By Ark Performance| Seven Seas – I will admit I am a little worried that the storyline is going to follow the path of ‘ship goes up against our heroes, discovers the awesomeness of Gunzou, and decides to switch sides, as we see suggested with Takao in this volume. Luckily, the manga seems more concerned with plot and action battles than harem antics, and on that front it does quite well. Gunzou is perhaps a bit more calm and implacable than I’d like, but hey. The naval sequences have just enough ridiculousness to them to be fun, but not enough to suspend disbelief. And there’s multiple sides, with no one entirely being trustworthy except for our heroes. Still a pleasant surprise, and I look forward to more. – Sean Gaffney
Happy Marriage, Vol. 8 | By Maki Enjoji | Viz Media – This series is winding down, and while I am on board to enjoy any josei that gets translated into English, I’m not sure if I’ll be rereading this series soon. One thing I did like about this volume is some actual progress towards emotional maturity, as Hokuto decides to take a calculated risk to establish his position in his family for once and for all. While there are the usual misunderstandings between Hokuto and Chiwa, there’s a bit more maturity in how they approach their relationship, as they actually work on talking things out a bit faster than the reader would expect based on the earlier volumes. As this series heads into the final two volumes, I’m wondering if Chiwa will manage to go for one volume without doing something to endanger herself. One can only hope! – Anna N
Knights of Sidonia, Vol. 11 | By Tsutomu Nihei | Vertical Comics – After getting over my devastation at realizing that Ms. Hiyama is not a real bear (this was apparently mentioned earlier, but I had long forgotten), I was able to enjoy what, for all its dering do and near misses, was a more light-hearted volume of Sidonia. Much of it is devoted to adding a new member to Tanikaze’s increasingly outlandish harem, this time an artificial life form who adds a lot more tsun to the mostly dere cast. We also get to see Tanikaze show off his totally ludicrous battle side as well, and show off various shocked facial expression. Yes, expression without the plural – faces aren’t Nihei’s strength. I marvel once more at the direction this title has taken, but I expect next time will be more serious. – Sean Gaffney
Magi, Vol. 8 | By Shinobu Ohtaka | Viz Media – As you might guess by the cover, our three leads are together again, but that doesn’t mean everything gets wrapped up here in a neat little bow. The revelation of some sort of evil council manipulating events behind the scenes makes sense given that this is the kind of manga we are reading, and they do a good job of putting Alibaba’s kingdom right up to the very brink. But in the end, this volume is about the tragedy of Alibaba and Cassim, and how their inability to see what the other one had led only to repressed jealousies. The end chapters seem a lot more lighthearted, and I look forward to a new arc next time Also, Morgiana gets in a number of great kicks and rescues, for those who only read the title for her. – Sean Gaffney
Oresama Teacher, Vol. 17 | By Izumi Tsubaki | Viz Media – This manga has a sprawling cast and wacky humor that often depends on goofy juvenile delinquent violence. But one of the reasons why I find it so consistently entertaining from one volume to the next is the way Tsubaki will suddenly focus on one cast member and turn in a funny yet touching story. This volume starts out with the third member of the public morals club, erstwhile ninja Yui, being forced to confront the reality of his undercover mission to destroy the people who have actually become his friends. Seeing him struggle looking over photos of all their adventures was surprisingly touching, and Hayasaka and Mafuyu deal with Yui’s crisis with the warmth and humor that I’d expect from such a consistently good manga. – Anna N