This week, Sean, Michelle, and Anna check out recent releases from Yen Press, Seven Seas, Viz Media, and Kodansha Comics.
Barakamon, Vol. 2 | By Satsuki Yoshino | Yen Press – I was a bit surprised at how fast this series went straight to ‘slice-of-life’ – while Handa’s devotion to calligraphy is present throughout, there aren’t as many scenes directly dealing with his struggles as before – r at least they’re more subtle. Riding the two middle schoolers about their own penmanship till they drop certainly speaks volumes. But mostly what we have here is ‘city boy learns life lessons’, in turns heartwarming and humorous. There’s also some otaku humor here, notably Tama’s repressed fujoshi fantasies, which Handa accidentally keeps inspiring. This is still enjoyable, but don’t read it for the plot – though that may change with the arrival of two new people from Handa’s past at the end. – Sean Gaffney
Girls Und Panzer: Little Army, Vol. 1 | By Girls Und Panzer Projekt and Tsuchii | Seven Seas – While Yukari is the star of the main manga adaptation, Miho is the star of the FRANCHISE, so it’s no surprise that she gets a spinoff here. This 2-volume series shows her as a more innocent elementary schooler, loving her tanks and her sister but already feeling a lot of family pressure, and not being helped by the new girl being a classic tsundere with a grudge against her family. Much of this is cute slice-of-life with tanks, as with the main series, but it’s refreshing to see an unbroken Miho here, even if the author promises the 2nd volume will be more serious. If you enjoy the main manga, and want to see more girls and tanks, this is a good choice – it’s not the fluff you’d expect. – Sean Gaffney
Happy Marriage, Vol. 9 | by Maki Enjoji | Viz Media – I’ve been feeling a little lukewarm about the past couple volumes of Happy Marriage because there were far too many contrived external events that were thwarting the happiness of Chiwa and Hokuto, but I enjoyed this volume so much more because it turned back to focusing on their developing relationship. Chiwa is being menaced and she suspects an ex-girlfriend of Hokuto’s. She and Hokuto end up confronting the woman together and in the process articulate their feelings for each other. A crisis in Hokuto’s family also brings them closer together as they finally deal with the issue of Hokuto’s succession to the family business. When I was reading this volume I was struck again by how much I like Enjoji’s art. She does a great job at portraying the nuanced meanings behind Chiwa and Hokuto’s exchanges as they slowly become a stronger couple. – Anna N
Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You, Vol. 20 | By Karuho Shiina | Viz Media – I have yet to encounter a bad volume of Kimi ni Todoke, but this is an especially good one. The story feels evenly spread across the characters, especially the three main girls, as they contend first with contemplating their future plans and next with the implications of giving home-made chocolates on Valentine’s Day. I love that Sawako has found her calling (and the great conversation in which she tells Kazehaya about it), but Chizuru and Ayane are even more fascinating to watch, as both are encouraged by their teacher to aim higher. Ayane, especially, has never had something to put her all into, and later wonders if she’s even capable of caring for her boyfriend Kento as much as she should. For the first time, I saw this as more of a coming-of-age manga than a sweet high school romance. Maybe it really could follow them into adulthood without sacrificing quality! – Michelle Smith
Sankarea, Vol. 10 | By Mitsuru Hattori | Kodansha Comics – As we head for the final volume, we’re getting lots of answers here, all being presented by Jogoro’s second wife, whose exposition dump is livened up somewhat by revealing she was sort of an eccentric when she was alive. Zombies finally dying is the order of the day, though – Otoki’s life ends after she’s helped Chizuru refresh his memories, and we learn that his mother crucified her zombie self so as not to risk her children. That leaves us with Rea, and honestly things aren’t looking good there – she’s gone on a rampage and even Chihiro may not be able to save her now. Can this series, which has had a lot to say about life going past the point it should, possibly have a happy ending? – Sean Gaffney