This week, Michelle, Kate, Melinda, & Sean take a look at new releases from VIZ Media and Vertical, Inc.
Arata: The Legend, Vol. 9 | By Yuu Watase | VIZ Media – By now, I should probably be immune to such shounen staples as “hero’s weapon gets larger to signify an increase in power,” but I still always find it cool, and when it happens in this volume of Arata, it’s no exception. The first half of the book is mostly fighting, with a little bit of heartstring-pulling thrown in that is still affecting, even though it felt like Watase was ticking things off a checklist in a very business-like manner. The relationship angst ramps up a little in the final chapters, as Arata learns that not only is he the successor to a powerful king, but also that he will create a new world with a “chosen woman” by his side. I really like the overall tone of this series, and though it offers few surprises or innovations, it still consistently entertains me. – Michelle Smith
Blue Exorcist, Vol. 6 | By Kazue Kato | VIZ Media – There’s a lot going on in this volume, despite it being mid-arc. The plot regarding the stolen eyes, and the revelation about a traitor in the cast. Shiemi’s inability to get past her knee-jerk reaction to Rin’s background, which is contrasted with a cute short story showing how well the two work together with Yukio, both in exterminating evil and in being his conscience. But mostly this volume is about Bon, and what it means to have a father that you can’t respect. Or rather, Bon *wants* to respect his father, but everyone else’s attitude, plus his father’s own ambiguous attitude, make it next to impossible. This is the meat of the story, and makes the conflict with Rin (who also has father issues) very powerful. This is an excellent manga, even if you aren’t a Jump fan. – Sean Gaffney
GTO: The Early Years, Vol. 11 | By Toru Fujisawa | Vertical, Inc. – The first volume of GTO: 14 Days in Shonan was a pleasant surprise, a raucous comedy about an earnest but slightly dim homeroom teacher who wants to make a difference in his students’ lives. Given how much I enjoyed my introduction to the world of Great Teacher Onizuka, I thought volume 11 of GTO: The Early Years would deliver more of the same. Alas, I found it a crude cousin to the later series, with rough, uneven artwork and jokes that repeatedly fell flat. Vertical, Inc. has done a better job of packaging this series than Tokyopop did back in the mid-2000s, with a snazzy cover and a snappy translation that conveys some of the sexual chemistry between the characters, but even Vertical’s first-rate presentation can’t transform this sow’s ear into a silk purse. -Katherine Dacey
Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 8 | By Julietta Suzuki | VIZ Media – I want to like Kamisama Kiss: it’s got a memorable hook, an appealing cast of supporting characters, and enough yokai intrigue for two Shojo Beat series. As I’ve dutifully read each volume, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that Julietta Suzuki has no real plan for how her story will end. Nanami doesn’t seem wiser or stronger than she was in the very first chapters of the book, while her relationship with Tomoe, the crotchety shrine guardian, has fallen into an irritatingly predictable holding pattern that offers few rewards for the loyal reader. Volume eight does little to dispel the sense of futility; even a detour into the underworld seems more a demonstration of how inept Nanami remains than an inspired subplot. Strictly for fans of supernatural romance. -Katherine Dacey
Kimi ni Todoke, Vol. 13 | By Karuho Shiina | VIZ Media – While Kazehaya and Sawako remain the stars – and seeing her meet his family is probably the cutest part of this volume – this focuses more on the group, which I appreciate now that the main romance has moved from ‘will they or won’t they’ to ‘so what now?’. Chizu is dealing with a rather attentive Ryu, who’s becoming more obvious – possibly by design. Meanwhile, Ayane is not only dealing with Kento finding her interesting (something which she seems to be ignoring, possibly as she doesn’t understand him as easily as she does everyone else), but with her own ideas of what love and dating are, which are not as ‘pure and innocent’ as her two friends. She agrees to go out with a guy who confesses to her near the end of the book, but I honestly can’t see it ending well. Also, terrific cover art. – Sean Gaffney
No Longer Human, Vol. 3 | By Usamaru Furuya | Vertical, Inc. – Though it’s no secret that I’ve been a fan of Usamaru Furuya’s inspired adaptation of Osamu Dazai’s classic novel from the beginning, as the rather unrelentingly optimistic type that I am, even I find this a bit surprising. Hopelessness has been assured far before cracking open Furuya’s final volume, yet it’s impossible to resist the need to follow Yozo’s journey to the end. Though this heartbreaking volume is remarkable on both dramatic and artistic levels, what I found perhaps most compelling were Furuya’s own notes at the end, describing his personal connection with Dazai’s work and how he came to write the adapation. Complete in three volumes, this series is a must-read for any grown-up manga fan. Highly recommended. – Melinda Beasi
Oresama Teacher, Vol. 7 | By Izumi Tsubaki| VIZ Media – Another highly variable volume – I love this series, but the author still has issues with focus and pacing. At its best, we get chapters like the first one, where we learn about Takaomi’s motives. It’s good to see his character gain some depth, and you really begin to see how driven and goal-oriented he is – and how that inspires Mafuyu. Meanwhile, the ‘summer vacation’ chapters get progressively worse, with Mafuyu’s festival with Sakurada being quite funny, but the ‘haunted house’ chapter being possibly the worst we’ve seen this series – so confusing I had trouble telling who was who from panel to panel. Ah well. Hopefully she’ll get that out of her system soon and we’ll be back to school, where Mafuyu fares much better – as does the mangaka. At least we get plenty of silly faces. – Sean Gaffney