Sean and Michelle take a look at manga from Kodansha, Seven Seas, Vertical, and Yen Press.
Genshiken: Second Season, Vol. 7 | By Shimoku Kio | Kodansha Comics – The manga continues to balance between Madarame’s “harem” and his lack of wanting to really do anything about it, and Hato’s identity issues. The latter makes the far more interesting story, frankly, particularly as it’s a very unbalanced harem—Angela and Keiko are both character types who blatantly aren’t going to win this battle. As for Sue, her denial is getting more and more frustrating, but I will admit that moving her into the apartment next to Hato brings together the two most likelies in this pentangle. I’m enjoying Genshiken in a vague way, but I’m not sure it has much of its original fanbase left, and I think its new fans would like more Hato and less everything else. – Sean Gaffney
Horimiya, Vol. 1 | By Hero and Daisuke Hagiwara | Yen Press – When I saw the cover and read the synopsis of Horimiya, I thought I would probably like it, but I did not expect to be utterly charmed by it. Belonging firmly in the “it ran in GFantasy so it’s shounen but it feels like shoujo” family, it’s a warm comedy about Kyouko Hori, a pretty and popular high school girl who secretly shoulders a lot of responsibility at home, and Izumi Miyamura, who looks like a gloomy otaku but is secretly a sweet, naturally tactless hottie. What I love most is that though there are inklings of deeper feeling between them, the first volume is all about the strong friendship they form. Miyamura is adorable, but I also appreciate Hori’s competence, and this is a rare comedy that actually succeeds in making me laugh. Horimiya was a delightful surprise and I very much look forward to volume two! – Michelle Smith
Knights of Sidonia, Vol. 14 | By Tsutomu Nihei | Vertical Comics – I think Nihei is apologizing to those of his fans who prefer science fiction, action and horror with this volume, which certainly picks up the pace a great deal—it’s as if they’ve realized the end is near. Much to my dismay, the mind-controlling eye worms also make another appearance, and with them a bunch of plot revelations from our wounded but not out of it captain. (It also leads to some suggestive off-screen stuff that I really didn’t need, but is certainly in character for its screwed-up cast.) In any event, half the fighting crew may now be lost, including Tsumugi, and the Gauna are on the rise. I’m still not sure if this ending will be happy, bittersweet or just depressing, but it’s coming soon. – Sean Gaffney
Nurse Hitomi’s Monster Infirmary, Vol. 3 | By Shake-O | Seven Seas – I was somewhat surprised to see the latter half of this volume actually have some genuine depth to it—of course, for a series as light and frothy as this one, that’s merely going from one-D to two-D. But yes, Fujimi’s relationship with her grandfather, now dead and apparently in Hell, as well as her former ‘rapid healing’ quirk translating to ‘undying’ after an unfortunate encounter with a tornado, proved quite interesting and fun. Less so the other half, which showed Hitomi’s younger sister (siscon, multiple personalities) and two new girls who serve to contrast each other and metatextually reflect on the manga itself, which is less interesting than the author thinks it is. Silly, but highly variable. – Sean Gaffney
Pandora in the Crimson Shell: Ghost Urn, Vol. 2 | By Shirow Masamune and Rikudou Koushi | Seven Seas – Brand loyalty can sometimes be a terrible thing. When I read the first volume of this series, I read it at the same time as the loathsomely boring Magika Swordsman and Summoner, and it looked more tolerable in comparison. Now, I’m reading it without that dose of sense, and it’s even more clear that Shirow and Koushi simply reinforce each other’s worst habit—they’re both massive lolicons, and it shows in much of the art, particularly the cover, which makes you wonder whether God even exists in the world anymore. The story itself is mostly amusing comedy fluff, but the fanservice is beyond the pale. Unless you have to read anything by these two authors, skip. – Sean Gaffney
Tokyo ESP, Vol. 1 | By Hajime Segawa | Vertical Comics – There are no shortage of manga about teenagers with special powers and abilities, but prior to Tokyo ESP, I hadn’t read one with such a traditional superhero feel. Enigmatic, costumed figures have released a bunch of glowing fish that bestow powers on certain individuals. Some of the recipients are good—like impoverished teen Rinka Urushiba and her musclebound, former detective father—and some are criminals. (And one is a hippo.) In a setup reminiscent of The Flash TV show, Rinka and her new friend Kyotaro Azuma use their powers to bring the supervillains to justice. But also there is some personal growth for Rinka, a mysterious background for Azuma, and a flying penguin with the ability to revoke powers. I’m making it sound like a chaotic mess, I fear, but it really isn’t. I enjoyed the first volume and look forward to continuing the series. – Michelle Smith