Sean, Michelle, and Anna check out recent releases from VIZ, Yen Press, and Vertical.
Inu x Boku SS, Vol. 8 | By Cocoa Fujiwara | Yen Press – The timeskip that happened after volume four has always felt a bit awkward, with several characters just feeling wrong, even with the reincarnation aspect. Now we begin to see that maybe this has been the point all along, as in order to stop our villain from screwing up the past, our heroes have to return to stop him. This naturally leads to an almost humorous scene where they all fall over themselves to be the one to sacrifice themselves to a time loop. In the end, though, a time capsule letter seems to be the better option, but we will see—the series still has a few volumes to go. There’s also a lot of side-stories here, in order to get the page count right, which are mostly cute but slight. -Sean Gaffney
Kaze Hikaru, Vol. 23 | By Taeko Watanabe | VIZ Media – Every August, avid fans of Kaze Hikaru like me receive a single volume to savor, and though I am exceedingly grateful that VIZ continues to publish this series, the slow pace is especially painful this time around. Not because Okita has finally acknowledged (to himself) both his love for Sei as well as her maturation as a bushi, but because times are becoming increasingly fraught for the Shinsengumi. Captain Kondo has witnessed first hand the indolence and corruption of the Bakufu, and there’s plenty of ominous hinting about “a dark cloud rolling over” them all. Though I do enjoy the central romance, when Kaze Hikaru focuses on humanizing historical events, its potential to be something truly epic shines. Now to sigh and pine away for another year until the next installment. – Michelle Smith
Maid-sama!, Vols. 1-2 | By Hiro Fujiwara | VIZ Media – I am so conflicted about Maid-sama! On the one hand, I like the smart and strong heroine, Misaki Ayuzawa, who is determined to whip the 80% male population of her high school into shape. It’s her love interest, Takumi Usui, who is the problem. When he’s not taking it upon himself to teach Misaki valuable lessons—including that she shouldn’t try so hard at the sports festival because “You’re a girl, remember?”—he’s saving the day with random prowess in things like cooking and playing chess. He is, frankly, insufferable. What’s worse is that I suspect we’re meant to think he’s cool and dreamy! I did read the eight volumes of this series that TOKYOPOP managed to publish, but I can’t remember whether Usui grew on me or not. Right now that’s seeming highly unlikely, but I’m not willing to give up on this series just yet. – Michelle Smith
My Neighbor Seki, Vol. 3 | By Takuma Morishige | Vertical Comics – Yokoi seems to get in more trouble than usual in this third volume of Seki, or at least more personal humiliation. In addition to the teacher calling her out on several occasions (though she at least manages to inconvenience Seki too in one of these), she is unable to explain Seki’s weirdness to her friends, gets her skirt caught under his seat leg, risks life and limb to save a snow bunny, and even belches in the middle of class after drinking Seki’s fresh tea. This is Yokoi’s manga more than Seki’s—when absent, even her angry spectral presence stops him, and meeting his little sister (who’s an adorable carbon copy of him) doesn’t make things any better. Fight on, Yokoi!. -Sean Gaffney
Nisekoi, Vol. 10 | By Naoshi Komi | VIZ Media – Nisekoi is generally at its best when it’s doing a longer plot or taking itself more seriously. With that in mind, the plotline featuring Shu was definitely the best in this volume, as his laid-back easy-going personality gets a kick in the head on learning that the class teacher is leaving to get married. (This is far more common in Japan than it is here.) It allows Raku to be the one to dispense the good advice—even if it’s just a kick in the pants—and doesn’t descend to the usual teacher/student creepiness. Other than that, cliches abound here, with a ‘must avoid being seen in the baths’ chapter and a cliffhanger with Raku getting amnesia and forgetting everything about his life—including his family business. Always great fun. -Sean Gaffney
Yukarism, Vol. 3 | By Chika Shiomi | VIZ Media- I was surprised that this was only the third volume of this series because Shiomi just manages to pack so much story into each chapter. The characters are all fully fleshed out, and now the reader is able to learn even more about Yukari, Mahoro, and Katsuhiko’s past lives. There are some ominous hints about the eventual fate of Yumurasaki’s eventual fate as she grows sicker and sicker in the past. Abilities and feelings from past lives keep popping up in the present, causing even more complicated emotions in the young trio. I enjoy the way Shiomi switches back and forth with a more ornate style in the past compared to the cleaner brighter panels in the present. This is rapidly becoming one of my favorite current Shojo Beat series. – AN