This week, Sean, Kate, and Michelle look at recent releases from Seven Seas, Yen Press, VIZ Media, and Vertical, Inc.
Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz, Vol. 2 | By QuinRose and Mamenosuke Fujimaru | Seven Seas – Ace, the cheery yet sociopathic character who’s quickly become my favorite in this series, tells Alice he finds her most attractive when she’s upset and stressed, as the conflict makes her pretty. That’s sort of how I feel about this series as a whole. When it’s talking about whether Alice and Boris will get over their fight and become closer and maybe even move in together, it’s just another generic reverse harem title. When it’s analyzing the mechanics of the world, putting Alice on a high wire act and pitting her friends against each other, and showing why leaving Wonderland and going back continues to possibly be horrible, it’s fascinating. Hence my favorite part of the book – Boris shooting at Alice’s vial and failing to even crack it, to his annoyance. -Sean Gaffney
Bamboo Blade, Vol. 14 | By Masahiro Totsuka and Aguri Igarashi | Yen Press – I was underwhelmed by the initial volumes of Bamboo Blade: I found the one-note characters and slapstick humor too familiar to be compelling. As the series unfolded, however, the artist’s ability to draw kendo matches improved steadily, yielding fight scenes that were fun to read and advanced the plot in a meaningful fashion. The final volume resolves the individual characters’ conflicts first, then features a lengthy, 100+ page epilogue in which we see the girls strut their stuff at a Burnish Academy tournament. It’s not brilliant by any means, but the matches are expertly staged, and the final pages of the story suggest that even Toraji is capable of growing up. -Katherine Dacey
The Flowers of Evil, Vol. 2 | By Shuzo Oshimi | Vertical, Inc. - Quite often I agree with Melinda on matters of manga, but this series is one where our opinions differ wildly. She liked it and found the leads sympathetic; I pretty much hated it and found no one to sympathize with except Saeki, the innocent (though idealized) girl who has agreed to date Kasuga, a middle-schooler who’s being manipulated by a female classmate (Nakamura) into acknowledging his inner perversion. I know I probably should applaud the depiction of teenage sexuality and pretention, but this series is just so not my cup of tea that I can’t find anything good to say about it. It’s very disturbing to me that what Saeki believes is a sweet, if awkward, first date with Kasuga is in reality tainted by the fact that he’s been forced to wear her stolen gym clothes beneath his own. She’s being duped. To his credit, Kasuga hates himself for the ruse and the final moments of the volume find him on the verge of telling the truth in a horrible, messy way, but ugh, I just can’t see myself picking up volume three to see what happens next. - Michelle Smith
Is This a Zombie?, Vol. 2 | Comic by Sacchi, Character Design by Kobuichi • Muririn, Original Concept by Shinichi Kimura | Yen Press> – Is This a Zombie? has the dubious distinction of being the worst comic I’ve read this year. The artwork is lousy, the jokes unfunny, the fanservice unrelenting, and the plot so nonsensical it often seems as if the characters themselves are confused by the rapid turn of events. In volume two, for example, there’s an extraordinarily silly fight scene in which we learn the identity of Ayumu’s killer. There are so many reversals and reveals packed into that chapter, however, that it reads more like something a six-year-old brainstormed than the work of a professional script writer. Add an unnecessary episode in which the characters go to the beach and participate in a food-eating contest, and presto! you have a recipe for a Manga Hall of Shame nomination. - Katherine Dacey
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 8 | By Kiiro Yumi and Hiro Arikawa | VIZ Media – And now, at last, after eight volumes, we get some resolution, as Tezuka’s horribly smug brother jogs Iku’s memory and forces her to realize who her prince is. And so now she’s freaking out, which is fun and yet also a bit predictable. Hopefully they’ll talk about it next volume after dealing with a molester who haunts libraries. What really impressed me, though, is Shibazaki’s plot thread. There’s lots of revelations here, some of which I found rather unpleasaant – but then that was the point – and you hope that someone (coughTezukacough) is able to take a hold of her and get her out of this ‘no one can ever really love me for who I am’ spiral she seems to be in. In comparison, Iku has it easier, but then Iku is a less complex person – as Shibazaki knows and envies. Good shoujo fluff. - Sean Gaffney
Oresama Teacher, Vol. 10 | By Izumi Tsubaki | VIZ Media – Longtime readers should now by now how much I love the humor in this title, and how I think it’s at its best when everyone is being as thick as planks. That said, I was surprised that my favorite moments in this volume were the more emotional ones. Hojo, the new Student Council member introduced here (another female character? How did that happen?) is comparatively ‘normal’, and thus we empathize even more with her obsession/frustration with Yui, who continues to vacillate between being cool and intelligent and being the dumbest, most clueless guy ever. As for our heroine, Mafuyu’s reaction to Takaomi reaching around to tie up her hair shows that, despite Western fandom’s dislike of student/teacher relationships, she’s still got it bad for him. All this, plus the return of SUPER BUN! - Sean Gaffney