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Bookshelf Briefs 2/6/12

This week, Michelle, Kate, and Sean take a look at recent releases from Kodansha Comics and Viz Media.

Arisa, Vol. 6 | By Natsumi Ando | Published by Kodansha Comics – Someone ought to invent an Arisa drinking game that involves taking a sip any time the characters are out in the woods and someone falls off a cliff. Seriously, I think that just happened a couple of volumes ago and here it is again. Despite the fact that Tsubasa stumbles (har har) upon a significant lead in the volume’s final pages, ensuring that I’ll be back for volume seven, I spent most of the volume annoyed. The good guys sure are making it easy for “the King” to undermine their efforts to learn his/her identity, to the point where it’s hard to summon any sympathy for them. It’s never a good sign when someone getting hit by a car actually makes me snicker. This series started off seeming really cool, but now it’s just kind of ridiculous. And that’s a shame. – Michelle Smith

Cage of Eden, Vol. 3 | By Yoshinobu Yamada | Kodansha Comics – You have to hand it to the author – he knows his audience. This is a story that really wouldn’t fly in Jump or Sunday, but in service-happy Magazine, it’s managed to be a success. And really, I can see why. Despite the egregious boob and panty shots, and the token loli that has been added towards the end, it’s the plot and characters that drive you onward. The teamwork/rivalry of Akira and Yarai plays out nicely, and Kohei’s breakdown is horrible yet compelling. This is very much classic boys’ literature – lots of fights with giant animals, buxom teenage girls, some small amount of romance, and plot twist after plot twist. It’d be a great manga to bring along to the beach. Just be aware that you’d finish the volumes to date very quickly, and might have trouble explaining the fanservice to anyone reading over your shoulder. – Sean Gaffney

Cross Game, Vol. 6 | By Mitsuru Adachi | Published by Viz Media – Comprising volumes twelve and thirteen of the original Japanese release, the feel of this sixth VIZ omnibus could be summed up as, “The final summer is just around the corner.” Seishu has missed their chance at the Spring Koshien, but as Ko and his friends enter their third and final year of high school, they’ve got just one more shot. Baseball is on everyone’s mind all the time, and we catch glimpses of some intense practice sessions, but just as much attention is devoted to the characters’ relationships. Much of the story revolves around Ko getting to know Akane, Wakaba’s look-alike, while Azuma and Aoba grow a little closer. It’s bittersweet, slice-of-life storytelling at its finest, and though I am really looking forward to the tournament ramping up, I’m sure the resolutions on the romantic front will be equally satisfying. Perenially recommended. – Michelle Smith

Shugo Chara-Chan!, Vol. 2 | Created by Peach-Pit, Manga by Napthalene Mizushima et al. | Kodansha Comics – If your primary complaint about Shugo Chara was that Amu’s guardians didn’t get enough time in the spotlight, this 4-koma spin-off title is for you. The stories — if they can be called that — focus on Ran, Miki, and Su as they bumble their way through a variety of stock manga situations: decorating a Christmas tree, getting dressed for a festival, baking cakes, playing with cute animals. The gags are too generic to make much of an impression, though the strips spoofing Arisa, Fairy Navigator Runa, and Hell Girl add a welcome jolt of visual and comic energy to an otherwise tepid volume. Strictly for hardcore Shugo Chara fans; newcomers won’t find enough here to sustain their interest. – Katherine Dacey

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