Hello, Melancholic!, Vol. 3 | By Yayoi Ohsawa | Seven Seas I don’t think this series was cancelled, per se, but I am sad that this is the final volume, as it felt like it was just getting started. As you can likely guess, this final volume focuses on our main couple (the other pairings get side chapters that, alas, are not collected here) and their attempts to realize that they actually do like each other that way, as well as dealing with Minato’s terminal anxiety. I appreciated the way that this book showed that sometimes pushing a person to do something way outside their comfort zone can be a good thing, and I also enjoyed Hibiki being forced to realize that she may be more like her father than she thinks. Easily the best trombone-related yuri I’ve ever read, this is also an excellent manga even without the trombone. – Sean Gaffney
Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, Vol. 24 | By Aka Akasaka | Viz Media – This volume flat-out tells you that we’ve reached the final arc of the story, and the back half of it is dedicated to that arc, kicked off by Kaguya vanishing from school. Before that, we get a lot more Ishigami and Iino ship tease, some more of Maki being a good friend but a terrible romantic partner, and Chika wondering why on Earth she doesn’t have any romance in her life? (Kaguya offers to set her up with Hayasaka, and given how much Chika fawns over another girl in this book, it’s probably not a bad idea.) There are still plenty of laughs here, but no doubt the final arc will be a serious one. Let’s hope that Kaguya can not only stay together with Shirogane, but survive to the end of the series. – Sean Gaffney
Komi Can’t Communicate, Vol. 22 | By Tomohito Oda | Viz Media – It can be very, very difficult to confess your love to a crush, especially in Japan, where casual dating is far less of a thing than it is over here. That said, I feel the plotline of “when will Manbagi confess, get rejected, and try to move on?” is taking forever, and that’s not helped by this volume, which gives her the perfect opportunity to confess, but she just can’t work up the guts. It doesn’t help that this is killing Komi too, and Manbagi knows it. The rest of the volume is mostly just the rest of the school trip, the high point of which was my realization that they’re staying at the same hotel that I stay at when I go to New York. (It’s got a lot of international customers.) Still good, but get on with it! – Sean Gaffney
Love at Fourteen, Vol. 12 | By Fuka Mizutani | Yen Press – I don’t think I’ve been this disappointed over the direction a series went since Bunny Drop. Now, don’t worry, no one breaks up here or anything. We even get a flashforward showing our main couple still together (if fairly static). The issue is that the author ran out of ideas for the main couple and so decided to bring in their fetishes, and we pay as much attention to them as we do to the Love at Fourteen. There’s not one, but THREE teacher-student romances, one of which explicitly has the girl decide to romance the teacher so he’s not seduced by a gay man. There’s the middle schooler and the mature looking fifth-grader. There’s the middle schooler and the OL, who get married at the end. Why was this so seedy? – Sean Gaffney
The Music of Marie | By Usumaru Furuya | One Peace Books – In this visually arresting, maddeningly empty story, Usumaru Furuya envisions a world in which humanity has been stripped of its technological progress. Marie, an enormous clockwork automaton, floats through the sky, keeping a seemingly silent vigil over her creators. Only one person can hear her celestial music: Kai, a young man who is torn between his feelings for Pipi, a childhood friend, and his emotional connection to Marie. Furuya’s illustrations are gorgeous, but the story never quite finds its groove, see-sawing between Pipi’s increasingly desperate attempts to win Kai’s affection and Kai’s efforts to uncover who built Marie, and why. The script sounds a few cautionary notes about the dangers of idolatry and technophobia, but Furuya’s penchant for making icky jokes spoils the mood. – Katherine Dacey
No Longer Allowed in Another World, Vol. 1 | By Hiroshi Noda and Takahiro Wakamatsu | Seven Seas This manga has one joke, and if you’re not here for the joke, you’ll probably want to stay away. The joke is that the protagonist of famous novel No Longer Human, about to kill himself along with his lover Sacchan, is instead hit by the inevitable isekai truck, and ends up in a fantasy world. This is a broad comedy, and the parodies of isekais are hilarious if (like me) you’ve read too many of them. That said, the main character here tries to kill himself multiple times over the course of the volume, and if suicide as comedy bothers you, absolutely do not read this. For those with no such issues, and who are familiar with No Longer Human, it’s pretty funny. – Sean Gaffney
Orochi: Perfect Edition, Vol. 1 | By Kazuo Umezz | VIZ – It’s pretty rare for me to disagree with critics like Helen Chazan and Chris Mautner, but I was underwhelmed by Orochi, especially when compared with some of Kazuo Umezu’s other translated works. The stories read like half-recalled dreams, with baroque plot twists and dialogue that makes Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? seem like a work of cinéma vérité. To some extent, that’s true of Umezu’s other work, but at least Cat-Eyed Boy and The Drifting Classroom pack a visual and an emotional punch, both of which are sorely lacking in Orochi; the title character is such a cipher that she registers more as a walking plot contrivance than a person, thus blunting the tragedies she helps set in motion. – Katherine Dacey
Rainbow Days, Vol. 1 | By Minami Mizuno | VIZ Media – I typically enjoy manga that was serialized in Margaret or one of its offshoots, but in Rainbow Days I have found the exception. Natsuki Hashiba is a wholesome teen with more worldly friends, and when they try to warn him that his new girlfriend is a gold digger, he refuses to listen. Alas, they were right. I found Natsuki to be a bland protagonist, but he’s at least better than one of his friends, Katakura, whose only personality trait is “into S&M.” Practically any time he’s in a scene, he’s either holding a whip (at school, no less!) or making comments about mouth gags. At no point is any of this ever funny. I do like Natsuki’s new love interest—and her abrasive, overprotective, and smitten best friend—and honestly I just wish those two had their own manga instead, because I really can’t do fifteen more volumes of this one. – Michelle Smith
The Shadows of Who We Once Were, Vol. 8 | By Yae Utsumi | Kodansha Comics (digital only) – I wouldn’t exactly say The Shadows of Who We Once Were has been a fun series to binge—it’s about teens being held hostage by a former classmate and forced to participate in deadly experiments, after all—but it’s certainly been riveting in its own bleak way. From the outset, readers knew the total of deaths related to the incident, and the final two turn out to be quite a surprise. I also appreciated how the reporter factored in, and the cynical detail that her subsequent article managed to change public opinion for, like, three months. The best part of the series, though, is the way the survivors have changed from the incident, in many cases for the better. Overall, I really liked this series and hope that it will one day have a print release. – Michelle Smith
zawa113 saysJanuary 14, 2023 at 10:42 pm
I, too, found Rainbow Days to be pretty insufferable. I’d be curious if it leaves its horrendous vol 1 behind, but I’ve also got better things to do than to find out myself.
Michelle Smith saysJanuary 14, 2023 at 11:12 pm
I’m glad I’m not alone! And I completely agree re: better things to do.