Happy new briefs!
D-Frag!, Vol. 7 | By Tomoya Haruno | Seven Seas – The setting may have changed to an island beach, but that doesn’t mean that the cast are taking it easy in this new D-Frag! And no, I don’t mean they’re amping up their harem qualities or having thrilling adventures. I mean they’re all being the best bokes ever, to the point where Kenji and his sister spend half the volume collapsed in exhaustion from the constant tsukkomis that are needed. Plot and characterization are mostly irrelevant here. We do get another girl added to the pile, this one from a different school. She seems to be able to eat people’s unhappiness. If you can put up with near-constant gags and comebacks, D-Frag! remains terrific. It can be a bit exhausting, though, and I recommend taking a break after each chapter. – Sean Gaffney
The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi-chan, Vol. 10 | By Puyo and Nagaru Tanigawa | Yen Press – This gag manga has always tried to handle the actual canon with care, particularly when it comes to the later books. As an example, we have Yasumi present and correct in the club, as in books 9-11, but she doesn’t speak or do much of anything that might reveal what she really is. Mostly as that would detract from what this series is, a bunch of comedic riffs using the Haruhi cast and its own built-up silliness as a springboard for anything. In fact, its world is getting increasingly flexible—Asakura is big-size again for the sake of one storyline, because Kuyou is playing the ‘SD mode’ foil. Anything goes when it comes to this series, and if you enjoy Haruhi and don’t care much about canon, it’s still great fun. – Sean Gaffney
My Love Story!! Vol 7 | By Kazune Kawahara and Aruko | Viz Media – I was looking forward to a Sunakawa-focused volume, and this fulfilled my expectations, with a bit of a plot twist. Takeo discovers that a girl named Yukika Amani has been in love with Sunakawa for years, sending him chocolate every year for Valentine’s day and observing him from afar. Determined to help the course of true love, Takeo and Yamato join forces to help Amani. While things don’t turn out in a typical shoujo manga fashion, Sunakawa’s quiet kindness is highlighted throughout this volume. My Love Story!! continues to be one of the best currently running shoujo series. – Anna N
Pandora Hearts, Vol. 23 | By Jun Mochizuki | Yen Press – It had been a while since I’d read a volume of Pandora Hearts, and after enjoying a small binge to get caught up, I can say that the series certainly reads better in chunks. Unfortunately, after the significant losses sustained at the end of recent volumes, I just can’t feel as deeply about the character who breathes their last in this volume, no matter how much it affects Oz. Otherwise, most of this volume seems to be devoted to convincing Vincent to stick around while neither Glen nor Oz makes much progress. At least we have a few scenes of Reim being great, though. I’m pleasantly surprised by the important role he’s playing here at the end. In any case, given how not devastating this particular volume was, I have a feeling I should keep tissues handy for the big finale. Gilbert had better make it out alive! – Michelle Smith
The Secret Sakura Shares | By Akira Hagio | Yen Press – I will say one thing about this one-and-done omnibus shoujo series—for once we have a ‘you will become my pet’ relationship that doesn’t end up being physically abusive, as Kei really does spoil Aoi as you would a pet. That said, I’d still call it abusive, as it causes her a lot of emotional turmoil due to feeling ‘useless’ and unable to do anything productive. Rich-kids-school shoujo generally features either an imported poor heroine or a former rich girl down on her luck, and this is the latter. Sadly, there simply isn’t all that much to say about it—I normally like short LaLa DX series, but I was ready for this to end before it was even halfway done. There’s better manga about imbalanced power relationships out there. – Sean Gaffney
Saki, Vol. 1 | By Ritz Kobayashi | Yen Press (digital only) – Bookworm Saki Miyanaga has perfected the art of neither winning nor losing mahjong with no idea of how difficult that is. Once she gets dragged to a club meeting and encouraged to win, she becomes eager to improve and progress to nationals, where she might be able to (I am not making this up) get her feelings across to her estranged sister (also a talented player) through mahjong. The volume starts a bit slow, but eventually terms like “prefectural qualifier” and “training camp” ignited my sports manga squee and I was eager for more. Unfortunately, Yen doesn’t have release dates for any more volumes listed yet! Also, I was a bit worried about fanservice in this title, but there’s hardly any. There’s a keen attention to boob size, which is a bit creepy, but I’ve seen much worse. Heartily recommended! – Michelle Smith
Say I Love You., Vol. 11 | By Kanae Hazuki | Kodansha Comics – Hazuki-sensei has a special knack for taking shoujo scenarios we’ve all seen before and turning them into something that feels fresh. Heck, she even repeats the “use new school year to introduce romantic rival” trick she employed to introduce Kai to bring in siblings Len and Rin Aoi. And with Mei and friends starting their third year of high school, they’re soon absorbed in career decision angst. It’s certainly very far from a bad volume, but it is mainly occupied with introducing new characters and worries, so doesn’t delve very much into Mei and Yamato’s relationship. I do love that Hazuki resisted ending the series right after her leads had sex for the first time, as if that were the culmination of Mei’s growth and development, and also appreciate that she seems to be drawing Mei’s kitty more often. I always look forward to new volumes most eagerly. – Michelle Smith