This week, Sean, Kate, & Michelle look at recent releases from Viz Media, Kodansha Comics, Dark Horse, and JManga.
Blue Exorcist, Vol. 7 | By Kazue Kato | VIZ Media - With this volume, we catch up with Japan, so it will be a while before we get 8. Which is a shame, as there’s once again lots to love here.Blue Exorcist being in Jump Square means it gets 35-40 pages per chapter rather than 20, which I think really helps its pacing. The bad guy is definitely on the rise now, as the true moles have been ferreted out (though the sympathetic one is already regretting her actions). Meanwhile, it seems only Rin can save them – but Rin doesn’t trust his self-control, so is useless. Luckily, Shiemi, in her best scene to date, helps him realize that he’s more than just ‘Satan’s kid with fire that kills’. There’s nothing really original here (this is Jump, let me remind you), but the pieces combine very well, and the action and infodumps do as well (though a few too many flashbacks). This is a solid series that rewards the reader. Now to wait for Vol. 8. -Sean Gaffney
Bono Bono, Vol. 1 | By Mikio Igarashi | JManga – I’m on record as being an animal sap, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that I snapped up volume one of Bono Bono, an award-winning manga about a sea otter and his woodland pals. (No, that’s not a typo. More on the squirrels in a minute.) Much as I like the *idea* of a cute animal comic, however, I didn’t like the comic itself; I felt as if the jokes and philosophical musings were tepid at best. The characters, too, were a disappointment. I don’t mind an artist taking creative liberties with his talking animals, but the juxtaposition of forest- and ocean-dwellers is never rationalized; you’d be forgiven for thinking that Mikio Igarashi settled on bears and chipmunks because he couldn’t muster a decent sea lion. About the best I can say for Bono Bono is that Igarashi’s primitive-cute style has genuine charm; he draws his characters as outlines, rather than fully realized, three-dimensional objects, imbuing the stories with a child-like quality. -Katherine Dacey
Cage of Eden, Vol. 5 | By Yoshinobu Yamada | Kodansha Comics - Perhaps I’ve just gotten used to it, but it felt like there was less blatant fanservice this volume. Of course, it could be that there was simply no time for that sort of thing – half the volume is spent trying to escape a cave filled with murderous teens, and the other half showing that pretending that everything’s the same as always isn’t going to work. More to the point, however, the three focus characters here are all male. Seeing Akira’s bond with Kohei makes the reality that much more tragic (and I appreciated that they noted Kohei could not be forgiven for the murders he’d committed, just understood), and Yarai shows off his utter badass nature while finally being impressed with what Akira can do. His suggestion is a good one – they need a home base, a “country” – and I wonder if it will be taken up in the future. Still good adventure manga writing, if overly focused on the busty female form. -Sean Gaffney
Oh My Goddess!, Vol. 41 | By Kosuke Fujishima | Dark Horse Comics - This volume is back up to a normal page count, but still feels like it’s over too quickly. Of course, that’s because we’re in the middle of a Journey to the Center of Hell – there’s no time for stopping to take in the sights. Keiichi continues to be the brains behind the three goddesses’ brawn, and while I could have done without Belldandy’s “apologize for now saying how awesome Keiichi is” near the end, he has shown himself to be more than just Bell’s morality chain. I also very much liked Thrym, who is a huge powerful bodybuilder girl, and her strength is shown in loving detail. Fujishima’s love of powerful machines extends at times to powerful goddesses/demons, and you can see he had fun drawing Thrym – who, like most of the ‘evil’ cast, is not *really* evil. Recommended for Oh My Goddess readers only, of course. -Sean Gaffney
Skip Beat!, Vol. 27 | By Yoshiki Nakamura | VIZ Media - What a gold mine Yoshiki Nakamura hit when she created the character of Lory Takarada, the eccentric (and that’s putting it mildly) president of the talent agency to which Kyoko and Ren belong. With his quirks well established, it’s perfectly in character for him to dream up kooky schemes to pair up the two leads, and with his position of authority, they can’t exactly refuse. His latest idea is for them to masquerade as a pair of punk rock siblings (in preparation for Ren’s latest role), which involves them living together in a hotel room so that Kyoko can make sure Ren remembers to eat. Ren, predictably, soon starts coming undone with all this close proximity, and in some unexpected ways that offer hints about his past. Kyoko is oblivious as usual, but perhaps not quite as much as she lets on to Ren. It’s good stuff! - Michelle Smith