This week, Kate, Melinda, David, Sean, & Michelle take a look at recent releases from Digital Manga Publishing, Kodansha Comics, and Viz Media.
Blue Exorcist, Vol. 3 | By Kazue Kato | Viz Media – In the third volume of Blue Exorcist, Kazue Kato proves beyond a doubt that she’s in control of the material. She uses these chapters to properly introduce two worthy antagonists for Rin: Mephisto’s younger brother Amaimon (a dead ringer for Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong) and Father Fujimoto’s former protege Shura Kirigakure. But Kato also takes the time to flesh out her established cast. Rin has an opportunity to solve a crisis with reason instead of magic, while flashbacks allow us greater insight into Father Fujimoto’s relationship with Rin. Smart-looking character designs, brisk pacing, and crisp dialogue keep the story afloat, even when Kato is going through the standard shonen motions (e.g. busty big-sis types, school field trips involving camping and group chores). A worthy addition to the Shonen Jump catalog. -Katherine Dacey
Entangled Circumstances | By Kikuko Kikuya | Digital Manga Publishing – Everyone’s heard the adage “never judge a book by its cover,” but more often than not, doing so has led me to something interesting, especially where BL is concerned. Not so with Entangled Circumstances, alas. Oh, it’s okay, being the story of a handsome, popular guy (now the project manager for a magazine) and the stubborn, uptight guy (now in the magazine’s sales department) he’s been chasing for six years, but it’s not as quirky as its eye-catching cover—quite different from common BL motifs—would suggest. Pretty much the entire plot is “uptight guy refuses to admit that he loves the other guy until suddenly he does acknowledge his feelings and then they have lots of sex although he worries the popular guy will tire of him now that he’s caught him.” Yawn. Nothing new to see here. – Michelle Smith
Eyeshield 21, Vol. 37 | By Riichiro Inagaki and Yusuke Murata | Viz Media – We are finally at the end of Eyeshield 21, which is second only to Prince of Tennis for longest sports manga out in North America, I believe. And if, as I believe, it should have ended at the Christmas Bowl 3 volumes ago, I can’t really begrudge it this victory lap. We finish up the game against America, and as expected the Japanese team slowly begins to inch its way back. The highlights of the volume are probably a) the revelation of the bandaged player, who isn’t the person everyone thought; and b) seeing Agon finally give in and play like a real teammate. Much as I hate to see anything good happen to him after being a jerk for *so* long, it wouldn’t be very Shonen Jump-ey, and this is nice to see. As the series ends and we see the cast split into various colleges all playing against each other, we get a satisfying sense of closure (unless you were one of the few readers wanting romance – no hope there) and a sense that the future is bright for all of them.-Sean Gaffney
March Story, Vol. 3 | By Kim Hyung-Min and Yang Kyung-Il | Viz Media – From the beginning, March Story has had a compelling protagonist, a dark, intriguing tone, and beautiful, beautiful artwork, while other aspects of the series have waxed and waned. Things even out in volume three, as author Kim Hyung-Min finally hits his stride and then some. Though this volume conforms to the series’ episodic format almost to a fault, this seems to be a good thing, even in the eyes of an epic-loving critic like me. March’s surreally-designed mother figure, Jake, is featured in this volume, which is much more of a treat than I might have imagined. Other highlights include a story about an Ill trying to protect her human son, and an Ill who spends years devoted to a human woman. There isn’t a lot of Ill-hunting going on in these stories, but you won’t hear me complaining. This series is at its best when bittersweet. It’s nice to be able to finally recommend March Story without reservation. Hopefully this is a permanent trend. – Melinda Beasi
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Vol. 1 | By Naoko Takeuchi | Kodansha Comics –I end up enjoying a lot of teen-demographic manga in spite of the fact that I don’t really care for the protagonist. If the supporting cast is large and interesting enough, I can ignore the lead’s shortcomings. Sailor Moon is shaping up in that direction, as I find our titular heroine to be too much of a drippy dingbat to actively like. While her solar-system sister is having a ball over in Codename: Sailor V, Usagi is behaving in some of the most predictable ways imaginable: lazy, shallow, and easily distracted. Fortunately, she’s surrounded by people with enough verve to drag her along, and Takeuchi has barely begun assembling her array of allies. I’m particularly taken with tough, elegant, slightly spooky Sailor Mars and dreamy, sarcastic Tuxedo mask, in spite of his contractual obligation to express fascination with our heroine. And whose life wouldn’t improve under the mentorship of a talking cat? – David Welsh
Tonight’s Take-Out Night | By Akira Minazuki | Digital Manga Publishing – The title story in this collection depicts a whirlwind romance between the manager of a burger joint and a guy from the corporate office. There’s not much emotional resonance to this tale, but that’s made up for by the next set of stories about an icy inhuman being (Kirin) whose killing streak comes to an end when he meets a kind physician (Shinnosuke). Their story brings all the drama one could ever want, including Kirin becoming human through his love for Shinnosuke (and angsting that he’s just a replacement for Shinnosuke’s late wife) and Shinnosuke eventually having second thoughts about this because Kirin will now eventually die. The last pair of stories are devoted to Makimura and Fujimori, an art student and his younger mentor who feel each other up first for sculpture-making purposes and then just for fun. All in all, it’s a diverse and enjoyable collection. – Michelle Smith
X 3-in-1, Vol. 1 | By CLAMP | Viz Media – Psychic powers! Family secrets! Mysterious destinies that threaten the entire world! Good-looking boys, and girls with yards of hair! X is pretty much dead center in the Venn diagram of “things I expect from a comic by CLAMP,” which is problematic only in that I like their work best when it surprises me. Siblings Kotori and Fuma find their high-school world turned upside-down by the return of their childhood friend, Kamui. He’s changed from the gentle, outgoing boy they knew, but you would too if you were constantly being attacked by nattily dressed, willowy psychics. On one hand, the whole “earth-threatening destiny” thing is as muddy and hard to navigate as a swamp; on the other, there’s an unapologetic level of violence here that compensates for the nonsensical quality of the plot it serves. The characters may be a little drab, and the story is a head-scratcher, but the fact that there’s this much bone-crushing, body-count action in a shôjo series is undeniably awesome. – David Welsh