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Bookshelf Briefs 1/23/12

This week, Kate, Michelle, & Sean look at new releases from Kodansha Comics, Viz Media, and Yen Press.

Animal Land, Vol. 3 | By Makoto Raiku | Kodansha Comics – What a difference a volume makes! Now that Taroza can walk, talk, and kick butt, Animal Land has taken a turn for the better. The action sequences are imaginatively staged, allowing Taroza to display a wider range of abilities and fight more formidable opponents. Volume three is also noteworthy for the introduction of the series’ second human character, a feisty blond girl who’s allied herself with a pride of hungry lions. While the interactions between her and Taroza are predictable (Capri is puzzled by her attraction to Taroza), Makoto Raiku manages to eke some fresh laughs out of their awkward courtship. A good choice for the middle-school crowd, in spite of the 13+ rating. – Katherine Dacey

Bokurano: Ours, Vol. 5 | By Mohiro Kitoh | Viz Media – I hadn’t originally planned on reading this right away, figuring it might be nice to have several volumes of this series to consume sequentially. But then I read that there’s a major revelation in this volume, and I just couldn’t resist. Actually, for a series about children who are conscripted into piloting a giant mecha with their life force, this is what passes for an upbeat volume, in that one boy successfully completes his mission then donates his heart to a very ill friend and one of the girls is able to catch a glimpse of her newborn baby brother before passing away. I thought the “major revelation” was telegraphed a bit too strongly beforehand, so it wasn’t as shocking as it could’ve been, but it’s certainly an intriguing twist. Kitoh’s sketchy, minimalist, and distinctive art style is growing on me, as well. Definitely still recommended. – Michelle Smith

Gon, Vol. 3 | By Masashi Tanaka | Kodansha Comics – If you dutifully purchased all seven volumes of Gon in late 2000s, fear not: the new Kodansha version is nearly identical to the old CMX Manga edition, save for the trade dress. If you missed out on Gon, however, now is a perfect time to explore this delightful series. As you’ve probably heard, Gon features a small orange t-rex who has a ten-year-old boy’s penchant for causing mischief. In volume three, for example, Gon floats down the Amazon, accidentally ingests some hallucinogenic mushrooms, and goes mano-a-mano with a tiger. All of Gon’s escapades are rendered in breathtaking detail; Masashi Tanaka’s linework is impeccable, capable of suggesting the texture of a reptile’s skin or a pine tree’s bark. Tanaka also has great comic chops; only Chuck Jones is his peer when it comes to drawing funny animals. Highly recommended. – Katherine Dacey

Kimi Ni Todoke, Vol. 12 | By Karuho Shiina | Viz Media. – We continue to focus on Sawako and Kazehaya’s new relationship, and how neither of them are quite sure what to do now. Sure, they’re dating and all, but how do two basically shy people go about holding hands, or even *gulp* kissing? To add to Kazehaya’s nervousness, Sawako’s parents now know they’re together. Luckily Kazehaya is a sweetie pie – indeed, her father is irritated that he can’t forbid Sawako to date him as he’s basically swell. There’s also a fantastic chapter showing how Chizu and Ayane met – Chizu, who always speaks before she thinks, makes a wonderful contrast to Ayane’s calculated speech and cognizance of the way others think. One could argue very little really happens in this volume, but who cares? Still fantastic.-Sean Gaffney

Pandora Hearts, Vol. 8 | By Jun Mochizuki | Yen Press – As we approach a volume count in the double digits, we’re starting to get plenty of information about the past, including some significant revelations about Alice. My reactions to this material can best be summed up by one of the characters, who says, “Hrm… ‘twould all seem to make sense, but not quite.” Here’s another applicable quote: “It’s been one crazy story after another, so my head’s still working on catching up.” After demonstrating some sympathy for her readers with this dialogue, Mochizuki gets back to the present, sending Oz to a local festival while suggesting that Gilbert’s about to go all crazypants. Rounding out the volume is the original one-shot concept for the series which is, I am sorry to say, both confusing and dull, but offers some entertainment in the form of familiar characters in unfamiliar situations. – Michelle Smith

Psyren, Vol. 2 | By Toshiaki Iwashiro | Viz Media. – I always find these mid-range Jump series difficult. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Psyren – the hero is fun in a Jump way, he contrasts nicely with his more competent friend, and the heroine is cute and more sensible than her other two friends. Still, there’s nothing here that demands I go out and get the next volume IMMEDIATELY, as I always feel with One Piece. It’s not a great series, it’s merely pretty good. Still, pretty good isn’t that bad. Matsuri is a fun addition to the cast, and there’s some great humor here with Ageha completely failing to use his psychic powers… then overdoing it when he finally gets it. The fighting scenes aren’t really as interesting yet, though. Given it’s a Jump manga, I hope that gets sorted out soon. Again, recommended if you like the Jump style.-Sean Gaffney

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