This week, Michelle, David, Kate, & Sean take a look at new releases from Viz Media, Seven Seas, Digital Manga Publishing, and the Digital Manga Guild.
Arata: The Legend, Vol. 8 | By Yuu Watase | Viz Media - Although the back cover blurb mentions nothing aside from the fact that Arata Hinohara and friends engage in a bit of crossdressing, that’s far from being the most significant development in this installment. One of Hinohara’s companions, a boy named Kanate, has been looking for the gang of thieves that wronged him, but when he finally finds them he’s so desperate for strength enough to exact revenge that he makes a choice that will pit him against Hinohara in the future. I did not see this coming at all, but look forward to the eventual drama this will create—and really, many of Watase’s plot developments are like this. On one hand, they feel a little out-of-the-blue, but if you think about it, the groundwork has been laid and the things characters know and do make perfect sense. This is a really solid shounen fantasy and I look forward to more. - Michelle Smith
A Certain Scientific Railgun, Vol. 2 | By Kazuma Kamachi and Motoi Fuyukawa | Seven Seas - This series works much better when it’s being as grim and dramatic as possible. The best moment in the volume for me was probably the phone conversation between Uiharu and Saiten, showing not only a depth of emotion but also giving some very personal reasons for why ‘normal’ people are getting into all this Level Upper in the first place. I also quite liked the eventual explanation for Level Upper, which is quite clever and works well with the context of the series. Unfortunately, there’s also a bit of humor too, which almost always falls flat. Shirai is a good action heroine but a horrible pseudo-lesbian, and Kiyama’s constant stripping was simply tedious. Lastly, I do admit every time we see Toma and he talks about mysterious things that never come up again, I get curious to see if this is stuff I’d know about if A Certain Magical Index was licensed. That can be frustrating. Still, keep getting grittier, Railgun: you’re better off for it.- Sean Gaffney
A Certain Scientific Railgun, Vol. 2 | By Kazuma Kamachi and Motoi Fuyukawa | Seven Seas - I was inclined to write this series off after the first volume, but the second is a significant improvement. The issues posed by the fact that this is some kind of tertiary spin-off of a light-novel franchise that’s never been published in English are largely cast aside here in favor of a proper story. In a school community where psychic powers are commonplace (though not universal), someone has come up with a way for normal people to manifest abilities of their own. Unfortunately, it leaves a lot of them in a coma. The higher-ups aren’t taking the situation seriously, so our cast of super-girl hall monitors decides to investigate. What follows is a proper mystery with some nicely observed adolescent drama and solid action featuring resourceful young women who are strong and smart. The art is still just competent, but the plotting and character development are an order of magnitude better. - David Welsh
Kimi ni Todoke, Vol. 11 | By Karuho Shiina | Viz Media - Sawako and Kazehaya are finally together, and this volume mostly deals with the fallout from that. Kurumi’s defending Sawako, and Sawako’s own refusal to apologize (Kurumi noted she would have hit her if she had) is well played, and I think finally moves Kurumi out of the ‘villain’ area, though of course I may reckon without the long memory of some fans. Meanwhile, Yano is having her own self-image issues, which she keeps from her friends, and wonders if being a ‘pure’ kind person is better than one who is kind in a calculating way because it suits them. Pin points out, in the best part of the volume, that both sorts are kind, in the end. (Also, love that Yano/Kurumi ship tease there. “If I were a man” indeed…) Lastly, we see the start of the manga from Kazehaya’s perspective, and see he and Sawako going on their first date. This is the adorable half of the manga, and while I didn’t find it as gripping, it’s still very cute. Great stuff.- Sean Gaffney
Mr. Tiger and Mr. Wolf, Vol. 1 | By Ahiru Haruno | Digital Manga Publishing - I ordered this pursuant to a careful democratic process, knowing in advance that yaoi featuring characters with animal ears would have to do a very great deal to endear itself to me. It didn’t, but I certainly didn’t hate it, either. The series is basically one good-natured joke repeated over and over with reasonable portions of smut in the mix. An adult wolf adopts what he thinks is a tabby cat, but the tabby cat turns out to be a tiger… and a top! They deal with the disapproval of their respective species and Mr. Wolf’s insecurities about, of all things, his comparatively shorter lifespan. I don’t know how keen I am on inter-species conflict as coming-out metaphor in general, but Haruno uses a fairly light touch, so it ends up being sort of cute. The big problem here is repetition; Haruno seems to find her core premise funnier than I do and doesn’t exert a lot of extra effort. - David Welsh
Real, Vol. 10 | By Takehiko Inoue | Viz Media -The latest installment of Real skillfully juxtaposes two plotlines. In the first, Tomiya decides to pursue a career in basketball, while in the second, Takahashi makes a firm commitment to his physical rehabilitation after watching the Tigers and the Dreams play a scrimmage. Takehiko Inoue demonstrates an uncommon ability to make the characters’ everyday struggles as dramatic and compelling as the game play; watching Takahashi struggle up a long wheelchair ramp proves as nerve-racking as Tomiya’s bold drives to the basket. Better still, Real avoids easy uplift; Inoue resists the temptation to make his characters likable, allowing us to see them as unique individuals, rather than cardboard saints. Crisp artwork and smart dialogue complete the package. -Katherine Dacey
Tired of Waiting for Love | By Saki Aida & Yugi Yamada | Digital Manga Guild/eManga - When Kyousuke Sawaragi meets Shuuya Kasuga in prison he vows to have nothing to do with the younger man, who protects himself by doling out sexual favors. When an injured Shuuya turns up at Sawaragi’s place after his release, however, Sawaragi must examine the reason for his distance and, ultimately, help Shuuya see that there are people in the world whom he can truly trust. I must have a thing for yakuza BL or, more specifically, BL featuring yakuza characters determined to leave their past behind, because I liked this quite a lot. I was especially fond of the metaphor likening Shuuya to the stray cat he finds on the street, and how Sawaragi must choose between showing him a moment’s kindness or a lifetime’s. Plus, Yugi Yamada’s art is gorgeous and the cat is darned cute. Highly recommended. – Michelle Smith